Unfettered

the weakest linkAs reality sets in about my mother’s passing, I sit considering over my morning coffee how much I felt I could not write about – the unspokens – because I knew that my mother would read some things and think that they were about her, or that they would make her feel sad or even angry.

We censor ourselves – some of us, anyway – and with the understanding that anything on the Internet must exist in it’s own context, it’s difficult to predict how something will be read, if it is read at all.

There’s some humor there; the majority of my family do not read things much longer than a headline, status update or text message. My mother, on the other hand, would read everything and stew. She could be eerily good at reading intent, or reading underlying meaning – and denying things she was right about would be not only dishonest, but an insult. I come by it naturally.

Sitting here, I realize she was the last reason I censored anything. I did so for my father as well. Despite the grief and sorrow, I am unfettered. Free. A final gift from her, of sorts, an accidental good in a bad situation.

Unprose End

the human soul is stardust on a tombstoneThis is more of something written for my nieces and siblings in the hope that they get out of it what I wish them to know, or what they need, or both. 

A message from my sister: “Call me.”

She was waiting outside our mother’s place, waiting for the medical examiner. The maintenance man had found the corporeal remnants, the footprint of a once living being. Of our mother.

I’d been expecting this call, much as I had expected the message from a less than articulate email from a cousin in 2005 who told me when my father had passed: “Aye – the old man kicked the bucket.”

My sister is better at this, she gives me the facts. She’s in shock, I’m in shock. She and I had broached the topic more than once but never explored it fully; she’d probably done the same with our brother. The clutch in my mind disengages, spinning free for a few seconds – that moment when everything disengages and a system reset is necessary.

The clutch in my mind engages.

I’m in Trinidad and Tobago. They’re in Wisconsin- equidistant from major hubs, almost, a meeting place of roads that is starved economically. It’s winter. It’s cold there. To get there I will be cold on the road.

The reset is over, I think, “I’ll need a jacket.”

I follow that thread in my mind, and it drags me to needing foreign exchange – U.S. dollars, a challenge in a twin island Republic once proud and rich but whose governments over the years have lead to the ropes of destitution which has lead to the foreign exchange problem. The strategist in me kicks himself for overlooking this one particular instance for a few microseconds. Plans and alternates pull together quickly, as always. It’s a Thursday. Friday will be a lost cause. Traveling on the weekend is a bad idea; it’s financially inefficient. Traveling during the week will have to be what happens if it does.

I’m not sure exactly what I said to my sister at that point except a weak platitude about her strength and that I’d see about getting up there. Her mind is not in the best of states either, but she is strong and practical. Resilient.

We have no dates. I don’t want to hold things up. She needs to plan and move things forward, and I don’t want to be the dangling detail that holds things up – I get a hold of my sister and tell her the same. Practically speaking, if there is a choice to be made, I will defray costs more if I’m absent. I’m still planning to get there, but the stars have to align a certain way for this to happen.

I call again the next day and speak to my niece; a resilient woman in her own right. They are going through my mother’s apartment. She has found the notes for my mother’s funeral, and in it she reads, “If Taran manages to show up, let him take what he wants.”

Even from the grave. How unprose of her. I laugh about it and I realize my niece won’t understand my laughter; the relationship I had with my mother was plagued by such things – it was in part a definition of our relationship, a constant that she held on to the end – or at least when she wrote that. And she, who was someone who hid things everywhere left the funeral notes where they could be readily found – she was like that too, like all of us, showing the world what she wanted it to see, hiding the rest just below the surface. She erupted now and then with it. It was who she was.

It’s a full day later – I’m still not sure if I’m getting up there. The dilemma of foreign exchange has left me waiting on things here and there; thinking of this and that. One cousin came by and did what I would have done in his place – offered any assistance possible. An aunt called and gave her, “you’re strong” (code for “I don’t know how to deal with you, I don’t understand you and really never have. There There”). Everyone’s different, showing their emotional strengths and weaknesses at such times as they reflect them into what they have been given on such occasions. The dilemma of hedgehogs, revisited.

The relationship my mother and I had was different. It was something that my nieces and sister, at least, accepted on the surface. People who knew us both just knew it was a difficult thing for them because it was a different thing for us. She had her thoughts and feelings on the matter, I had my thoughts and feelings, and between us there was dissonance with a history of circumstance that neither one of us was at fault for.

I’ll get into that. Yet in the broad strokes, who doesn’t love their mother, who doesn’t want to be there? Who doesn’t feel a certain numbness and feel a little guilt for it as emotions below the surface try to figure out which way is up – bubbling in their own directions until they find the gravity they fight against so that they may reach the surface?

My mother was a writer – she’d happily tell you that, and if you stood still long enough she’d read you poetry that she’d written, a bit of herself she had learned to allow to the surface more readily. It’s what we do, I suppose. She was convinced my writing was a gift from her. Both sides of the family have their thoughts on that, where they are quick to point out what writers there are on either side of the family. To be an engineer was kind of expected, to be a writer was an uncomfortable thing for everyone. It still is; as Stephen King wrote, writers are not parts of ‘polite society’. We can be cavalier with those around us, tossing identifiable bits and pieces of others close to us in what we write only because we tend to write from who we are, and who we are is a complicated business of relationships and unspokens that can paralyze us.

There. I solved writer’s block for everyone. You can get back to writing. Just find those unspokens and get them out.  

That I can be creative and logical makes me an alien in both camps. For my father, he could never understand I could do both. My mother could, yet could never truly understand engineering beyond the magical results, good and bad. We see that in others that we see in ourselves, tossing in smoke and mirrors of questionable relevance that give us our own flavor of the world.

Where my father was an angry vanilla, my mother was a butter and pecan with bubblegum and a sugared cone. When you figure out what that means, let me know.

But let us push bravely on to the context of the relationship with my mother, and who she was.

Unprose

We were more distant than we wanted to be but closer than others wanted us to be. We were pulled apart from circumstances beyond our control. There will be opinions on this by all manner of people who were not involved; they were not involved and their opinions do not matter.

There are many ways to see someone. A woman can be a mother, daughter, sister, cousin, friend… and that’s the way the relationship is defined in a social agreement. A mutual understanding. And so, when they pass away, these people share stories about them with others and the net result is that they see the person in a new light, or an old light revisited.

With my mother and I, there was the period until I was 9. It wasn’t as normal as anyone might think – a mixed marriage in the 1970s, a child born in 1971 to follow two other siblings my mother had in her previous marriage. An East Indian father who would do anything for his own father and mother, later to sacrifice that on an altar of his own life. His story is told on this site in bits and pieces already, it’s not his moment – but from urban Milwaukee where we somehow fit in to the suburban Ohio where there was a noticeable effort to try to fit in, where I encountered racism for the first time through a baseball bat. People like to talk about racism a lot these days, few have experienced it – the confusion it can generate in a boy.

And I knew things were a little wrong. My father was uncomfortable, my mother was unaware. She was to remain blissfully unaware of things at times throughout the years. I was a latchkey kid, I had been for years. Her first husband had died, and I magically got an older brother and a sister. I had not asked for them, they had not asked for me, sibling dynamics ensued on the canvases we already had. I cannot speak for them, but I was confused and tried to make the best of things. Later, when I was older, I would understand their perspectives better. They had lost their father, were uprooted from the family they knew, and… suddenly there.

Meanwhile, my paternal grandfather died, and my father decided to return to Trinidad and Tobago to be a part of the family business – a complicated story in itself.

I was asked, both mother and father there, whether I would like to move to Trinidad. I was 8 or 9, asked a question that seemed simple enough on the surface, and said, “OK”. After all, I could tell that was the answer they wanted, I could tell I had given them the answer they wanted – something I confused with the ‘right’ answer. And so, with a long roadtrip, I went to Trinidad and Tobago, to a culture alien to me, to wait for my parents to arrive. What would happen to my brother and sister was unclear to me, and honestly at that age I hadn’t thought about it. In retrospect, that maybe should have bothered me – but I was overwhelmed by the adventure, exploration, seeing things and understanding them.

Fast forward about a year, and my father shows up. He tells me my mother will be coming. Time passes, a few more months. “She’s not coming.” I’d adapted to the culture but never really fit – in my years, I never truly fit anywhere – so I made my own place, had my own misadventures and even forgot what my mother looked like in a few years. I could not write that when my mother was alive; it would have broken her heart further.

Of course, I rebelled. I made up a picture of her and hung it up on an inside door of my room, writing “Mom” quite large under it. They’d made mistakes; they had the omissions, they had the sticks, but they could not figure out what the carrots were. I was unlike.

And at that point, they figured out it wasn’t going away and that I would not forget her completely. Suddenly, pictures became available. And that broke the entire infrastructure built on the foundation of me forgetting and everyone doing as they wished. It was an ugly time made uglier by the dynamics within my father’s side of the family.

There is much I did not tell her out of kindness, there were white lies mixed in to keep her from her sadness. She had a deep sadness already that would erupt now and then and cascade across the people around her, a tsunami that demanded attention. Her happiness was the same way.

I was busy, inundated, and I would find out decades later that letters and pictures had been withheld. That letters I thought sent were never sent by my grandmother. Notes between my grandmother and father came into my hands once the keeper of the secrets, an Uncle, took ill – the conspiracy for me to forget my mother writ large, the manipulations, the subtlety something I did not think any of them capable of admitted. They meant well, I suppose – but in doing all of this, they created a chasm between my mother and I.

Certainly, some of her own decisions affected the outcomes in all of this, but she was faced with hard decisions all round – and she never stopped trying. The letters I found decades later written to me that I had never received would explain gaps to me, but I never told her all of that. I gained an understanding, an understanding that she couldn’t get – partly because I couldn’t share it without hurting her more deeply than she had already been hurt. She would never understand how much of my silence and firmness at times was done for her own benefit, out of love, and she was smart enough to know I was holding things back – but instead, I expect I looked like a reminder of my father to her, though she knew I could communicate better –  and was frustrated by my decision not to.

Yet after this, we would read poetry together at a few different places. We would work at the same company, and she would drive me as crazy as I would drive her – her trying to bridge to a 9 year old long gone while a young man fought for relevancy and identity in a large corporation. It was clear that I could not be what she wanted of me to me and not to her. My father’s illness made a comma there, with me returning to Trinidad and Tobago to try to help that particular hedgehog.

During that time, I would find out that she left the apartment I had arranged for her – that the financial support I gave for her to get her degree never paid off for her. She claimed agism, and I saw that as only part of the problem – she was unabashedly herself, and did not conform well to corporate culture (I am similar, just as my father, but dance on the line more than not). I was to find out that she lived in her car for a while – not the one I made the downpayment on – the shiny red Isuzu Impulse that she managed to hit in the garage a few times – but a station wagon I told her not to buy, but she did anyway.

She eventually got a handicapped sticker, moved into a place in St. Petersburg, and then moved off to Wisconsin to be closer to my sister and her daughters. Pragmatic me advised her against it, but I was once again a voice in the wilderness. As it happens, her decision worked out for her – connections with her granddaughters, my sister… how could I judge the value in those things, I who had grown up without them? She was right to move. I would tell her so.

Our relationship evolved after that, in Wisconsin, yet some things got better and some things could potentially grow worse between us. Her life was a contrast of rainbows and deep storm, sometimes flickering too fast for me to keep up with. Her cynicism and anger sometimes, even when directed at me, made me laugh inwardly as I saw myself and where I got it from. Her bubbling enthusiasm at times could be abrasive, but her indomitable spirit had taken her through challenges long before I was born and since. She may not have realized that connection we had, she may have – if she did it was a mutual secret, an unspoken. She would avoid me because of my firmness at times, pushing me away in many ways even as she wondered at my distance.

Fortunately, over coffee on many occasions I said what needed to be said. We talked about her eventual death, we talked about what she wanted to happen, that my sister would be in charge of everything. She was in her tempest of storm once while we talked about this, and she asked me what I would want from her eclectic collections – I simply looked at her and told her that I had already gotten everything of worth from her. And she smiled, an accidental truth bringing her back from her storm.

Unprosed.

I know much more than I’m writing here, but those are not my stories to tell. She was a woman of depths that many couldn’t fathom, and she could be confusing to some people at times because her depths would come out of her writing and performance, coming across as shallow at times when it was simply the cooling magma as she constantly rebuilt herself.

Her life wasn’t fair to her, people around her weren’t fair to her. We all have these issues to varying degrees. She saw her troubles, troubles that she held within in depths even she couldn’t pull out, and she wrestled with them at times as anyone who has lived a life of challenge does. She was a survivor, yes, but she drank as deeply of life as she could and encouraged others to do the same. She could be amazingly impractical and somehow manage; she could be amazingly practical and somehow not manage. She never stopped.

Her relationships with her daughter and granddaughters amazed me not just in how well they adapted to constant shifts, but in how resilient my nieces had become. My sister remains a cornerstone of that foundation, she who knew our mother best. My nieces have been women for some time, and I know that they are the stronger and better for their relationships with my mother. Maybe if they read this they might understand better this Uncle’s relationship with their grandmother and learn what they can from it, that love isn’t always as easy a thing as Disney would have us all believe, and that setting things free is just as important sometimes as staying close to them, and that setting things free sometimes means leaving them where they are.

I know we all are better because of her in ways we understand as we ourselves grow. She challenged us in her own ways to be better versions of ourselves, though sometimes she wasn’t as pleased with the results as much as the process.

We are all a little unprosed for her passing. Those who did not know her will not understand what that means, those that did know her can only understand what that means in their own context.

I sit here with this last line, unprosed.

Silent Running

UntitledI wake up earlier than most. In fact, I wake up when some are only considering going to bed.

And every morning, where I live, there’s a woman older than I doing a shuffling run past me as I sip my coffee. Every morning. She’s overweight, her clothing baggy – perhaps revealing how well her exercise and perhaps diet is working for her. She sprints up the hill nearby.

The most we have talked is exchanging pleasantries.

I watched her this morning, her shadow running ahead of her figure under the street light, and finally saw her form. Her breathing was right – 1 step, 2 step, 3 step, breath out. Her pace was that of a fast walk, she avoiding bouncing as much as she could – she has a pendulous problem on her chest which must play hell on her back. I almost wanted to tell her that she’s killing her knees on the pavement, but I bit my tongue. She would know after this much time that was the case, she knew what hurt – how could she not? And yet, she was out there doing what she needed to do, avoiding the heat of a tropical sun and also avoiding those that might mock her for what she is seen as and not what she sees for herself.

I’ve been there. I might even argue I’m still there, though running is no longer my thing. And I think back to the first time I saw this in someone else.

It was in Field Medical Service School. Sure, in Navy Boot Camp I saw kids flailing about when running – I was the pacer, and if I caught the straggler as we went round, they went off to remedial where I didn’t see them. That I had become a pacer had been a joke but a good one – at 5’3″, my stride is shorter and therefore I have to work harder to meet the same times. Youth and growing up pedestrian gave me a natural advantage at that age, so it was all good.

Field Medical Service School was different because I had gotten soft since boot camp, but I had started training well before it – enough to pass the physical requirements of an elusive rating that I could not get into because of my myopia.

At Field Medical Service School (FMSS), we had a kid – he was a kid, about 18, the scars of acne still forming on his cratered pink face. He was large. He was, sadly, what every Marine accused sailors of being – and here we were training to be the sailors that were attached to the Marines as their medical support.

This was his 2nd time. He’d failed to graduate the last time. He told us his Master Chief had sent him to FMSS as a punishing joke. And every day, he ran – or better, scuffled with the ground through his feet and boots or running shoes. His toes pointed inward naturally, his frame was large and hidden in fat accrued over a lifetime.

He was, of course, scorned by us – at first. That scorn in a unit meant strengthening the weakest chain, and in a group of young Corpsmen, that can go from being snide now and then to being an outright jerk. But he kept on. We all watched what he ate; he did push-aways at the food table. He was almost always hungry, but he was determined enough to go a little hungry. He ran every day outside of our normal physical training. He kept to himself, but in the common barracks we kept an eye on him. In a way he scared us – he was driving himself into a meltdown, and we’d all seen Full Metal Jacket.

There was a Marine Corporal instructor who was a complete jerk to everyone, but amplified times ten with this poor kid. The kid could do nothing right for this Corporal, even when he did right. As someone of equal rank of the Corporal at the time, I wanted to throttle him a few times. He sensed this; it’s hard not to see when I dislike something – and he was acting the bully, and acting the bully is something I can never stand. I did end up getting the upper hand after I graduated. There’s a good story. Maybe another time. 

One day, someone called out to me in the barracks – I was the Master-at-Arms for the class, and what happened in the barracks was my problem. The kid’s rack-mate called me over and I found myself staring at the kid’s feet. It was pure, deep infected blisters. With the experience I’d already built up as a Corpsman, I broke the news to him that he shouldn’t be running, that he needed to be on light duty for a while to heal up. He wouldn’t have it. He wanted to run. He wanted to get out of FMSS. He wanted to get out of FMSS that we all worried how much he wanted to get out.

I called in the Corpsman instructor after at least 10 Corpsmen in training looked at the kid’s feet. Light duty it was, for a while, but I no longer shunned the kid. I took an interest in him – the weak link in the chain of ‘3rd herd’. When he got off light duty, we ran together – his pace was hard on me, that slow pace, but it was good for me. Others took over, and slowly more and more of 3rd herd was working with the kid. We wanted him to graduate. He was one of us. Sure, he might have a past at his last command, but while he was with us he worked harder than any of us.

In the end, he failed the required run for graduation by one second. We were crestfallen – we pleaded, collectively, for him to have another chance – and that same Corporal refused.  One second. But a second is a second, and there were no second chances. He would be held back to go through FMSS a third time. There was nothing to be done. He was moved into a separate barracks even as all of us celebrated passing – salt in his wounds.

I wonder sometimes how that kid fared. I do know that the Corporal, that pudgy fellow, got his come-uppance through myself and a few others as well as the Command, but years later I realized that he was such a jerk not because he didn’t like the kid, but because he was just a jerk who had probably had to go through Parris Island as that kid.

Yet I remember that kid’s spirit – the eyes that shone through tears with a burning desire. He had decided somewhere along the line that he would not break, that he would do everything to achieve what he had to. But even then, he was put into a position where he was forced to.

And this woman shuffling every morning? She wasn’t being forced. Purely voluntary, much like me going and working on my land every morning while others are comfortably in bed. While people younger than us with similar complaints, more overweight than us, read books, try diets, watch instructional videos and buy gym memberships that they never use (a boon for gyms everywhere) but but don’t actually do anything.

We all have this idea of who we are but very few of us meet who we really are, where we push our grit to the limits – where we fail every day at something just so we fail less every day. Where we command our lives while others do not, who plot our courses one foot over another while others stare at the ground worried about their footprints.

That woman is deserving of more respect than most people I know. She has decided to do something, she is doing something and over the months she has continued doing something. Silent running, her grit driving her forward to whatever lays beyond.

Freedom and Youth.

Bondage Breaker. Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light. — Helen KellerShe and I sat on her front stoop talking quietly so as not to awaken her mother. It was a cool morning, the dark rain clouds looming to the Northwest. It wouldn’t be long, I could be caught in the rain, but I was compelled to sit and speak with her because she needed to be listened to, she needed to to be spoken with.

This adopted niece is a strong young woman, and she’s bearing a weight of responsibility that sits maybe too comfortably on her shoulders, a tribute to her nature, an indicator of her nurture. She has been raising a parent and, finally, at 21, she saw a clearing in the clouds of her life and a chance to see the sunlight she had heard so much about. She’s intelligent, thoughtful and aware of herself… but youth comes with a pressure to press forward and the world has a way sometimes of keeping some of us from doing just that.

Who we are either grows or dies.

The paths for her are predictable: Continue on the path she’s being forced down by her own sense of duty and become further frustrated to the point where she gets married just to get out of the house, or she learns to become selfish just enough to allow her to grow out from under the rock placed on her by circumstance. While pressing up on the rock will make her stronger, it will only make her as strong as she can be without light to photosynthesize.

I suppose we all reach a point like this with things. For me, it happened when I was 15 and it caused me to rebel, to do anything to get out of the house, off the islands I had felt trapped on for 6 formative years. At 16 I did just that, not properly prepared, to return to the country of my birth and find it full of strangers and few friends.

There is no advice for me to give her. I can only tell her the path I walked and continue to walk. My challenges in life, the ones where I had to manage tough decisions that I made knowing I could not regret them, had meaning for her – not that she should do similar, but that I could tell her what would happen along that path.

Quietly, I considered her challenges as a woman in Trinidad and Tobago, bearing the responsibilities demanded of her by childish people who should be stronger. For her, the paths were limited because of the culture and because of society – and if she is strong enough to push those aside, if she can can keep her feet under her even as we both know it’s slipping… she is the Atlas of those close to her, holding worlds together even as hers shifts. That weight will eventually fall off her shoulder as people die; it could take years, it could take decades, and who she will be after will be dictated by what she does now.

How strong is she? How much weight should anyone have to bear? How many sins of our forebears must we punish ourselves for? How much do we owe, and in owing, how much interest must we pay? How much do we lose to the roles we are born into because of the historical detritus previous generations haven’t cleared up because of their comfort with it?

I watch again the freedom of youth being lost to the Faustian bargains of adulthood.

I’d write more about her, but I wish to respect her privacy on such a small island. She’s someone who deserves to be a character somewhere. A character that achieves something in life, however small. 

The Bookstore

Rain. Bookstore. I read the Glad well before, but find myself referencing when I don't have a copy.I’d needed a haircut for a few days, but the stylists – whatever you wish to call them – were having bouts of the flu. Today, though, I called and faced the traffic to get there, to have my hair cut – and the lady in charge was kind enough to throw in a complimentary shampoo. The shampoo involved a head massage by a woman I can only describe as gifted.

I was in a good mood. It was rainy. I did not want to go home; a lady asks me if I was hungry – a hint that I was boggled at to the point where I fumbled it. I left, and went to a place I am always comfortable. A bookstore.

In entering, I was immediately asked if I needed help. I said no, and began perusing titles – I liked the Louis L’amour, I always have, so I picked that up because I hadn’t read these stories by the dead author. Some will point out that he wasn’t the best Western writer, talking about how his publishers made sure his books were prominent… I don’t know. I do know that my father purchased all of them, that a Louis L’amour novel lasts me about 4 hours at most, but that I always enjoy them.

Another young woman comes up to me and asks me if I need help. I said no again.

A few more minutes perusing. Looking for minds more original than my own has become difficult; I scan titles and look at cover art. I read the back covers, instantly annoyed at how marketers have taken over that spot to tell people what other people have said about the book.

I don’t give a shit what anyone else says about the book, I want to know what the book is about.

And… a young man comes up to me and asks me if I need help. I stare at him. “You’re the third.”

“What?”

“The third person who asked me if I needed help. I don’t understand why. If I’m in a bookstore and I need help, I probably shouldn’t be in a bookstore.” I said this maybe a little more annoyed than I should have, but I let it sink in a moment. This attempt to play librarian in a bookstore forgets that the librarian sits quietly until provoked; the librarian doesn’t go around asking people, “Do you need help?”

I scan titles I’ve seen easily in the background as I considered the plight of the young man.

“Look, I’m sorry, you didn’t deserve that and you’re doing your job as your employer says you should – and maybe even as the market dictates. So I apologize. It’s just that I know my way around the bookstore, I like the joy of finding things I couldn’t possibly tell you about because I don’t know them yet.”

He accepts the apology, but I see that my former words had stung more than my latter words had soothed. He wanted to explain. I let him, let him let the ooze rip from the cyst I had accidentally incised with my words, nodding at moments, keeping eye contact, but flipping through the books I had scanned in my mind. He needed to let go of something, I didn’t need to hear it. His face relaxed. He was done. I smiled, nodded and said, “I think I understand” and continued looking over the shelves of books.

The young woman who had asked me if I needed help first witnessed the exchange. She assured me he was fine, but her assurance didn’t mean he was fine. He was sensitive. People had been nice to me today. Part of me wanted to shout at him to toughen up, the other part regretted my casual abrasiveness. The latter won this time.

Most of the books were ancient in the age of the Internet; a point of anguish for me sometimes, but also a time of opportunity to see some of how the roots of present ideas form. I read very, very fast – not ‘speedreading’. I just read fast and have a reading comprehension that frustrates me to no end when people with degrees are so bad at it. So, while the books are generally what’s sent and left in this tropical armpit of the planet, where books come to die, there are opportunities to explore things – with the knowledge that the information in them is likely outdated. It’s better than reading ingredients on soup cans.

I peruse some more, finding the Gladwell that I so often tried to use as a reference for some of the solid concepts he has written about – but I had left my copy in Trinidad the first time I had left, had left the copy I had in Florida, and was down here without a copy. And I picked up one on the rise and fall of information empires — something that I’m constantly researching new perspectives on (because none of them truly fit). I explore more, seeing the same tired titles that no one wanted yet.

I encounter the young woman I had first met upon entering the store – she’s nestled quietly in a corner with a book, reading.

“Ahh, that’s exactly what I would be doing if I worked here.” Nothing makes a literate person more comfortable than seeing the person working there reading instead of pestering them, in my mind, but we’ve already established I’m an outlier (gratuitous Gladwell reference).

She looks up and smiles, “I love working here. I get to read.” Well, look at this – a rare bird in this day and age, the Literati Exoticus.

She looks at the books in my hand, “I see you found some things. Why did you choose them?”

So I go through, explaining, “Well, the Louis L’amour is like cocaine to read; it’s fast, action packed, well paced and unfortunately over quickly leaving you wanting more. The Gladwell is something I like to refer to when writing, but I don’t have a copy so I’m getting this one. And this one is about Information Empires, which I’m interested in because I find myself writing about them indirectly.”

“You’re a writer?”

“Ugh. I wrote an eBook that got published back in 2005 or 2006. I wasn’t pleased with it, but yes, I’ve been published and I do write… though I haven’t published a book since then.”

“Why not?”

“Partly things changing so fast, partly procrastination and all the excuses not to write, and partly too many projects I’ve started and not finished.”

“I want to write children’s books.”

“Then write one.”

“I’m procrastinating.”

We laugh. In conversation she points to the bookshelf next to her as a generic reference to books and accidentally points at “50 Shades of Grey”. I laugh, telling her what she pointed at – and looking around to see that the store was empty of other customers, went on to say, “That book is so horribly written.”

Enter sensitive Third, who apparently loves the book. I try to make the distinction, “I’m not saying it’s a bad book… I’m saying it’s horribly written.” An attempt to be honest without being dishonest to smooth over the sting. This poor guy looked like someone kept walking by and killing puppies. I decided that there was nothing to be done, that I had been kind enough, that part of growing up was facing facts and that the “my puppy died” face was just to trigger enablers.

Fuck enablers. I’ve seen too many make children of what could have been men in my generation and prior. There’s a place for sensitivity, but there’s that thin line.

“Listen, it’s a popular book, but being popular doesn’t mean it’s well written. In fact, the BDSM community came out against the book. Writers mock the book openly. But people buy it, just like people think McDonalds sells hamburgers.”

His eyes grow distant, as if I had also killed puppies in the distance. Or maybe he was sad yet thoughtful. It’s not my business, my business is being honest and, at times, hurting feelings – conscientiously, for ‘the greater good’.

I bought my books, having made a friend of one person there and having killed a few virtual puppies of the other – a shame because if the puppies were real, I’d probably still be playing with them. Who doesn’t like puppies?

Exited stage, left.

Conversation.

Dharma MoonWhy are you up so early?

I woke up. I’m not tired.

No one else is awake.

That’s sort of the point. No one’s making noise aside from that confused rooster nearby that crows from 2 a.m. onward. And the dinosaurs that live upstairs have fallen silent. They must have fallen silent, because there was quite a racket before they became silent.

What are you going to do with the time?

Clearly, I’ll write. I’ll read. Check the weather outside, see if it will let me get some things done out on the land. Plan the day. Do some reading.

– Write? What about?

That’s a problem this morning. There’s nothing really on my conscious mind, so I’m free writing and having this conversation with you.

– Me?

Don’t be a smartass.

 

Redefinition.

NASA Rocket Experiment Finds the Universe Brighter Than We ThoughtThe world changes, the way we see the world changes – and this happens to everyone around us. We talk about growing apart from or growing beyond people – a view of the world that centers on the self – selfish? No. In a world where we act and react to our environment, an argument can be made that we are the most constant thing that we know even as we ourselves are not constant.

And we redefine. When people treat us well, we gravitate to them, when they treat us poorly, we are repulsed – and the same is true of how we treat people and how they react. Some people who are unhealthy do the opposite, some put up with poor treatment because they do not think they deserve better – and, hopefully, one day they figure that out. And we redefine.

And we redefine.