I hear rumors of fifty degree nights, thin bike paths, green mountains and runners in training. Forever I had craved oceans but now I just want a mountain to climb. We joke I must be jealous and I plead for photographs. Please send me what you see in Colorado.
The child most traveled was most fearful. He would have never gotten on that plane if she had not been there to hold his hand. I guess it had to be that last step inside was the most determined and contained the moment he lost his breath.
Breathe, man. Just breathe.
Two nights before I told him I had a dream, It was about you. You were on a plane and it crashed. Don't worry, nobody ever accused me of having psychic abilities.
Nice, nice, he says. Then he chuckles and I figure you have to breathe to chuckle.
That is mean, I hear in my other ear. Why don't you tell him that statistically he is more likely to be killed in an automobile accident?
In his thirty-three years and millions of air miles don't you think someone has mentioned that before? Absurdity killed by logic? I'll talk about the auto accidents when he comes back and has to drive his work commute.
You are so mean.
Yeah, yeah. Okay. Whatever. He is my brother. He knows what we are doing.
It is silly and absurd but no more than all his fears ever were. He was the boy who detested we lived on a hill and calmed himself with maps of escaping tornadoes he would explain during a heavy wind. The others would attempt to ease him, pat him on the head but I would tell him, You might as well go with us. If we are all blown away then you will be left alone.
Maybe sometimes you have to stand up real high and look down. Feel the fear come up through your toes, lose your breath, allow your head to spin, extend your arms out to balance your soul. Regain your sight. It is the only thing that ever truly helped me.
I was in the very rear corner of a van with strangers in a state five over when the fear finally began to suffocate. A family of five sang kumbaya. I had not had a cigarette in three days. I looked to my left through a window I wanted to break. The breathing became shallow then stopped and my heart began to thump my chest. I am trapped, my brain screamed inside my head. The scream took over, my fists clinched, my foot began to tap. Fear was all that was left until finally a tiny voice within me began to smile, an evil little smirk, Silly silly girl. You are not trapped or maybe you are. Go ahead scream, shut those people up. Tell them to stop this van and run. Run.
I blinked, looked out that window again and reminded myself to breathe, laughed as I pictured myself running through a landscape five states over, darting behind the cactus hoping they wouldn't find me. Oh how funny that would be.
Surely it is not that we have fears it must be what we do with them. Can't we just laugh at ourselves sometimes?
Public service announcement: Laughter promotes breathing.
In the whole of everything you find pieces of you everywhere. Putting that puzzle together must be next to impossible. There is the work you who can't crumble, who has to persevere to survive. Who is smack in the current state of American manufacturing. An oh we have this so we must do that mentality. Quick, unsure, constantly thinking, feeling to the point we have to scream, pressure in a pot. The other three five six seven eight a million people you work with are some of the closest people in your life. You communicate in shorthand.
The upsidedown upturn of the corners of one's mouth.
One eyebrow lifted higher than the other.
A tilt of the head.
Shuffle ball change. I need tap shoes.
This is broken.
We must fix it.
How do we do that?
Maybe this way. I'll call and check.
I got it.
Have a good day.
I am sick.
What is wrong?
Not good. What would you like to do?
I don't know.
Figure it out and tell me. I'll support you no matter what.
Later, Now I know.
Good. We'll do it.
Take a drive.
We'll do that.
Whatever you need.
Rapidfire you. Static in crescendo.
Thus sometimes you have to dance naked somewhere alone or with someone else or just something or you'll lose your mind. Which is funny since dancing naked sounds like you're losing your mind, huh?
Even the dreams dreaded as worst case scenarios were acted by those without faces. I knew better but sometimes you just can't help yourself. Let it flow in and let it flow out. The being lava and not water did not work so well for you. Remember that, I think.
He walks in looking all serious.
I tend to resist change of which I am not in control. At the same time I don't want to take responsibility for big decisions of which I have little confidence. The conflict simply looks like it is on the outside but it is being played out for what it is within me. Remember that, I think.
I greet him but he says nothing so I mock him, It's nice to see you too, Shea. He hides his amusement. Later he sits on the desk next to me, I missed you this weekend.
I know, I say. Then we sit in the pause, an empty parenthesis.
This is better. Why did I dread? There were reasons, many excuses. The do you remembers can take up so much space. Always the answer, people will tell you who they are. Listen. Remember that, I think.
A couple of hours go by and we have a quick conversation about no redeeming qualities. He laughs and so do I, but sometimes I don't even believe what I say. Not so much a lie as let's state an absurd fear. Remember that, I think.
He leaves me wanting and wondering but I am responsible enough to focus. Not long after we have lunch and a puzzle. Then a cigarette and back to the individual tasks.
Change will happen and I am not in control. I just need to focus on the task at hand. Lucian was a patient man. Remember that, I think.
Before I asked, Why would my heart send me down the wrong road?
And he answered, Maybe your life serves as a warning to others.
I don't want it that way, I said. But then, I am water.
Later when I come home I find a beautiful gift just where he said it would be. He made it with his own hands, and I can play it with mine.
Exquisite. Thank you.
I want to learn this song on my new cigar box guitar.
Lucian becomes a welcome distraction, a journey we walk with reverence because we see where the path ended. It was an honor to sit for him, to bare body and soul for someone who took both into consideration. Even in the not so obvious his studio seemed to glow and dim and glow again in what could only be considered a truth he found with intimacy.
He understood a need for comfort in a world where sometimes little could be expected and most times he would cook for those who accepted. He knew the aroma of potential could save a weary soul so he fed them as he painted them. A loving recognition, a thoughtful consideration.
The stories were his and theirs to share. We are left with the tracks he made on the trail.
I had a long conversation with a beautiful couple.
Confronted with vulnerability not so far ago I lost the gift of speech. In the minute of mute I could not form a word. Hindsight wonders was it due to containment or was my brain too tired to speak. Even the hamster on the wheel needs to get off every now and then.
He who tells me says, I think this is when you are supposed to calm me.
I open my mouth, form the shape for the word but no sound comes.
I gotta get outta here. I am going to blow, he gives up waiting.
Then the gift returns, Bye.
I cancel plans and the night becomes mine. I shouldn't claim it so selfishly, I know, but the lack of sound earlier validated my choice. Gave me reason, purpose.
At a cabin of friends we meet for the first time, another beginning another ending. We are old enough to understand the inevitability of this chapter, the implications of the previous and a hope for the next. He instructed me to be more aware and vigilant, grown up he said and I know to heed the warnings of the wise. Yet in this cabin you and I vacation from the vigilant. We stop making the words and start being them.
Why yes, you can write, I say but add, if you want.
You smile and I realize your smile was the one thing of which I was convinced. Certain. This cabin becomes your smile and I make a note. How could we not write?
I want to share a secret with you without affecting you so I make a secret note of your smile. We made introductions hours ago, you her you him they you then everybody about the business of the rule, the one rule. Make yourself happy or don't. Responsibility was the most adult decision I ever made.
You smile again. I see dimples and brown eyes and make another note.
Can I make some pictures of you? I ask quickly, it comes out fast, I fear sounding too strong and you reply, Sure. I knew this too but sometimes I doubt myself.
You sit on the swing, the very center and stretch your arms out to where your hands hold the chains. I sit on the wood deck in front of you and the camera, my friend and foe, becomes the only thing between us. This is good, we need it. The camera, a thing to hold us back.
I am not a shallow swimmer. I like to go deep and later we'll take a swim in the dark at the end of the pier. Right now the sun is planning it's descent and the light has become warm and it holds you cozy. You look out over the lake. I snap the shutter from my lap while admiring you. This is serious you.
What do ya' think of the place?
Nice. Very nice. You turn back to look at me, I take another shot and the smile returns, wider now. You seem instantly aware of where you are and I almost regret disturbing you. Another shot and I move to the right walking to the far end of the porch. Aware and appreciative of how you watch as I am walking away I point the camera behind my back and snap. I hope I got it. I hope I got you looking. I may treasure that one. I may write a story about it. Another beginning another ending. Maybe there will be more. All anyone could ever hope for was hope.
I get on my knees and take another shot. The scene is expansive with you as only a prop so I decide the light is losing and we have all week. Let's go to the pier, I say, when it gets dark enough we'll take off our clothes and jump in. Will that be okay?
I'm definitely up for that, you say and there's that smile again.
Not long after we are playing in the dark, all grown up and playing.
The girl who loved stories heard the best story she had ever heard. A tale of tall victories spoken in small whispers smiled with a tilted head. He spoke fairy tales with no inflection. Sure, a gleam, a glint, a sparkle and shine witnessed in the correct light. She was here he was there knowing both places had their own appeal. This one is this way he explained as the melody of the upturn played in the beat. Air in the form of Vedder's anthem filled the space in between. She caught it, inhaled one way exhaled another. It was Hansel and Gretel make their escape, a yellow brick road home, the sleeping princess woke up, the shoe fit and we were there. She felt desperate. He seemed calm. Huge leaps for her were small paced steps for him. Just clean her room was plan the next six months of his life. She joked he was switched at birth and how that other sweet child, her biological spawn must be homeless and broke, poor baby. She did feel sorry for him and would hold him if she could but was so glad she got the other one. She loved they put him in her arms that really scary day in darkness he came and never not once complained of the morning light.
You are family and sometimes just that fact keeps me holding on to the sun.
Gratitude, I remembered. Thank you for the sweet note.
Remember the cabin, the river beneath it. Remember the pier we'd sit on.. I want to go back there tonight. Not selfishly forever, just tonight. I want to feel the wind. I want to hear the water. I want to need a fire to stay warm, to be in a blanket with you. I dare myself to not enjoy every moment of that. Just tonight.
Just tonight I want to take a drive with the windows down. A curvy back road, music and headlights and the rush of air. Simple it seems but still we have made it complicated.
I want to feel music with you.
I want to come home and cry in your chest. I want to mutter I've had enough. I know, you would say. Later I'd just get over the day by falling asleep and you, you could do whatever you liked just as long as I didn't have to make a decision. Please don't make me make a decision.
I want the house to be small and the porch to be fitted with a swing and old box fan. Chulahoma coming from a radio through a cracked window. I want to swing.
Today I just want to feel and am glad I can with you here.
I wake up to Towelie wanting to write a memoir and find it to be the one thing you don't want to wake up to. Or maybe you do, maybe it means something you were able to make it past that Southpark episode and onto a blog. My cruel cruel editor has seen some of the handwritten going this way and that notes, the self criticism bled into the paper. It's pretty personal actually, that mental activity going unspoken. At the same time I think it is good to read it outside of ourselves.
You take something with which you labored, molded, fought, cried over, laughed into submission. You cut something you thought was solid, woulda sworn it two hours ago but not anymore. It has to go.
And still when you finally hand it to him you do so with some speech that keeps one line in place. You've picked your favorite and you shout it at him and he laughs at you. He'll go one step further and you have announced this the toe to toe, practice doing that head move while snapping the fingers. You land it in front of him.
And he does not respond, not yet anyway.
So the inner critic gets all louder to the point where you can't even read the piece anymore. Whatever he does to it will be fine.
Writing digitally is different and it shouldn't be I don't guess. It is just not on paper to an ignorantly digitally minded writer. This right here is more like a personal letter between you and me. You are kinder, you've seen me fail and you come back for more. I think that's pretty special, a relationship where you are prepared to fail and someone allows you and you them.
Maybe not. I am just saying maybe.
Anyway, I feel a big thank you coming on. A thank you to my Mom and my Dad for reading, to my brothers, to Pris and Madalyn, to my sweet, sweet son, to Ellen and Sarah, to CJ, Angie, Nana, Rick 'cause he feels he has to, D and Kim and Pam and Charlie and Rusty and Rebecca and Adam and Betsy and Aunt Sue and anonymous. I think this must be my Oscar speech although I never planned on winning an Oscar.
And, oh yeah, you people who make youtube videos. You rock. Thank you. The video you did of Woodstomp lets me show this. They say legislation discussing taking away our ability to link to each other freely is happening right now, that right could be removed from the system. What does that world look like? Have you witnessed as I have what has happened in the world since we began freely sharing? It, the world, has become more free. Can't we just keep this for free? Or do we have to buy it as well?
Here's the Woodstomp video, brought to you by the amazing Slater Goff. You rock, kid.
Happy Belated Birthday, Charlie.
Tonight the movie is Rivers and Tides. I want to spend a day picking up stones for him. I also want at least one cow with long bangs, but I don't want sheep.
Slater taught me to play chess when he was six. I beat him the first seven months when the game was all about just knowing your next move. In the process of winning I would become obnoxious (even more than usual) and perform the latest touchdown dance. What I thought I was teaching him was winning is good, celebration is fun and losing sucks. Beat me 'cause you know you're hating me right now.
After seven months he did. He does and he forever will but he doesn't do a dance, just a smile and a normal toned let's play again to which I reply, no, I can't take the defeat, man.
I wish we would have played tonight. I think we both needed it. Me the defeat, him the success. A cathartic end to the day.
This game of strategy is where the strategist plans another year of his life and at the expense of a summer vacation where he lived with his Nana and Paw and worked every day at a job banking funds for a year long college hold out. It is where the one whose mind can read the definition of strategy, can use the word in a sentence but show a remarkable lack of exhibition of said word in a real life situation or game of chess. I don't plan but I write myself notes or make lists on dry erase boards, sometimes I mark them off but most not.
Slater has an extra gland, an interior tissue marking the existence of forethought. In all the scientific studies I've done it is evident we have something here which can biologically skip a generation. It is a direct descendant of his Nana and Grammie. The boy rocks it to the point I have to hold myself back when he doesn't have a smile on his face, when he is planning in thoughtful consideration. I have to tell myself not to clog. Not to do the special clogging move reserved for the most intensive of moments. I need tap shoes.
You don't seem happy.
Well, you're just not the smiling boy I've witnessed as of late.
I'm getting this stuff done for college, Mom. I have to work tomorrow and Saturday.
Why do you have to work?
'Cause I need money.
You have money, right? Do you need money?
No, I'm fine.
He fills out the papers, shows me what he has done, talks about an appointment next week and asks me if I need the computer.
No, I'm fine, I say. Thanks for recording House for me. It's like I have a new date with him every night.
He smiles and marks something off a list.
Music tonight is provided by The Black Rebel Motorcycle Club with snoring dog accompaniment.
I read Poe's Tell-Tale Heart early in those days before I noticed the writing. It was his theme that even as a child I was drawn to, how beautiful a statement we could not escape our own minds. We could and inevitably would drive our own selves mad. Crimes of self were crimes against humanity. He led me past Blume's Superfudge into a notion of deeper waters and never distracted me with his words though they weren't the ones I normally read. This was writing.
My William Faulkner affair, also termed the dark days of deciphering, became a search for that one paragraph long sentence among ten pages of such which would make me stop. Read again. Draw a picture in my mind and endear me to a character of which I felt I shared blood. His language and rambling thoughts felt like a long lost relative so I struggled, persisted, went to his place and saw where he wrote on the walls. I became close to him and then let him go but I will always remember our time together and be thankful for what we shared.
Hemingway and me, a short affair which seems fitting since it was always about economy anyway.
Oh McMurtry, he built Gus and took him away. I try not to resent him for this. Good job, Larry, damn it.
Spong, Grisham, Lamott, Morrison, Salinger, Fitzgerald, Gilbert, writers and their work always seemed to mark a time in space and travel.
Hunter S. Thompson, I loved in the sickest way. He still saves me in the most desperate of times.
It wasn't until Cormac entered my life on happenstance that I stopped writing for a while. He shut me down and told me I had things to learn so I gave up and began studying like a feign. Now when I type I do so in a defeat of I'll never be there. I had to give up, bow to what that was and decide I'd do it anyway. Maybe that's what he taught me. Maybe McCarthy said you'll never learn everything so just write what you think you know but never lie about what you feel.
C is quite a card, a good character in any play. He lives his life to tell stories of happenings gone wrong. He jumped a fire once on a dare. Made it the first time but fell flat in when the guys he was with told him the first time didn't count. This scared me and intrigued me about him at the same time. Crazy boy.
He spent time in jail, the county one. It musta been a year or so but made easy for the fact he became the judge's boy, one who fetched this and got that. He was quite good at doing what the man said. White boys can be slaves too. In fact, we all can be to whatever we would like. C was a slave to wanting to get outta jail and he succeeded. He smiles when he tells the stories.
There was this one time when he got so drunk on beer and liquor and taking some kinda prescription relaxer that he decided he would redo the house. The wife and kids were gone to church service and the mingling afterwards when he thought it a good idea to take out a wall he'd been meaning to. Took out an entire wall with a sledgehammer. In the process he got electrocuted while standing in the water from the burst pipe and ended up several feet back, his face facing the ceiling when he woke up. Woke up in a dark house with water spraying all over the living room floor. He fixed it but not before realizing he had taken out the wrong wall.
He grew up with a Daddy who was a preacher in the Pentecostal Church and camp was an orgy. I had never heard such in my life of the goings on and won't say his views represent all who take such a leap of faith. There was just much more sex in C's religion than I had ever seen or even thought at Mont Rose Baptist. Hell, we only had a Baptist and a Methodist church in town, and I had never even heard of a Pentecostal until I got all grown up. I think C was my first.
We had a good relationship 'cause I liked stories so at breaktime and lunchtime I would linger and say, What's going on, C?
Aw me and Ricky done went off and got too drunk last night. Did I ever tell you 'bout the time I had set it up where one of Ricky's old girlfriends would call him and tell him he done got the AIDS?
What? No. Please tell me, I would beg. That story would last an entire week, one all my coworkers and I still bring up at times. You know, one of those stories.
He laughed, Scared him to death. It was funny as hell. I told her to call him, tell him she had been tested and was positive so she was just letting everyone she had slept with know.
No way. She called him? Oh C, what did he do?
He laughed just thinking about it, He called me wanting to know what he should do and I told him he better go get tested 'cause if he had it he was going to need to tell his wife.
I sat attentive, all leaned in, egging him on, No C. Tell me you didn't.
I sure did. That was a year ago. He still don't know I put her up to it. He's more careful now though, a changed man you could say.
One of those things making ya' start to live your life right, huh?
I tell him, You'll always find what you're looking for.
Then we fight.
So I wonder if I was looking for a fight.
Maybe so, probably, okay most certainly but why. I must think I don't deserve him. I must be getting serious and fearful all at the same time which then leads to considering deal breakers. Deal breakers lead to harsh words and harsh words lead to the deal being broken. A pretty natural process it seems, deconstruction of a relationship.
We have been here before, we know the trail and yes, it can be dark or we could find more light. This is learning or not. It is whatever we choose it to be. I think that is the ticket, the choice and the benefit of being single. You always have a choice.
When I left the counselor's office 'cause on the third visit he couldn't show up the gentleman in the suit said, Shea.
My hand remained on the knob of the door but I turned around and said, Yes.
Is the business gonna make it?
If we want it to, Brent. I think that's when I knew, when I knew I didn't want it to.
Now I am more careful or fearful.
In movie news I watched The War of the Roses again after a long, long time.
Interest was feigned postmortem, a piece of death peace of mind. A lovely little neck of the woods. We are exactly who we wanted and are where we could. You are this I am that, no apologies are needed. The trails we hit were always ours to walk.
I look up to see a bird in the sky, you tell me what it is. I argue the obvious and you grin. This is what we were to learn all the time, this is the fabric of our lives.
I think this is the first time in my life where I have considered being solely where I am at. I know a guy, a kid/young man/man, ohmygoshman, he's a real guy. He is a college student, an employee, brilliant and beautiful, and I think how did that happen. How did he get all grown up? How did it turn out that I could love that much? Who knew I had that type of capacity for love? What happened in me that said I trust him to be the person his soul calls him to be, whoever that is. I will love him just the same. I am grateful.
I have people in my tribe, you have people in yours. They never put us at risk. Mine give me exactly what I need, yours do too. Maybe we don't get everything we want but we get exactly what we need and we give them that as well. A novel respect. You and me, we are so lucky to be where we are right now. This is a cool place.
Sure, it's not perfect. Floors could be cleaner, dishes washed. We could spend all day doing everything that ever needed to be done as long as we don't forget to do some things. I think this is happy or content or okay or whatever you need to be in right now. Maybe one day we should all do this.
Tell a stranger, hi. and mean it.
Send someone a song.
Mark something off a list.
One small smile.
A laugh (at yourself preferably).
One moment where you tell yourself not to worry.
Quick glance at nature, name a tree a blade of grass.
A phone call or visit with at least someone you love.
There's more, right? What else is there?
Come on now.
You can do it.
Gratitude. Breathe, we can be grateful for our breath. Now go to sleep. Lights out.
When you build something you must also plant something in order to replace it. This is one of the things my Dad loved so much about England. He was impressed by their forethought, how that many years ago they knew they would need that tree again. A simple concept thought by people together.
We sometimes speak of tribes, how as humans we have navigated ourselves into small areas, or different sized areas. Sex, color, age, nationality, language, region, religion, politics, class, music, sports team, TV show, movies, jokes, concepts, who's your favorite SEC football team.
I can't pick a favorite.
I can't pick a favorite anything.
Everything is my favorite.
Man or woman.
The more color the better.
Baby or Granny or Papaw or snarly teenager or college student or any age.
I love the USA.
I love accents and individual history, stories from another land.
Lewis Black says that he likes to sit in a restaurant in Amsterdam filled with people as they are constantly chattering around him 'cause it seems to be the only place in the world where there is not at least one asshole in the room. He doesn't speak Dutch.
Who is your God?
Democrat or Republican? That's the funniest shit I have ever seen in my life. There is no difference. They are all doing the same thing.
Coins in your pocket, that's all it is.
I love certain music. I can't help myself so I am going to have to remain tribal here but you could certainly love my tribal music.
Do you watch House? Isn't he just one of the sexiest men alive? Please tell Hugh Laurie to never speak with a British accent again. From this day forward he must always be House. Hence my taste in men. I should be ashamed of myself.
Just that one joke, it is awful which means I am awful at telling jokes and that's awful, isn't it.
Concepts. How many concepts could there be?
I can't pick a favorite anything.
Friends, or special humans.
I claim independence of picking favorites. Could I? Or are we just innately tribal?
Fifty more miles or thirty more minutes, he thinks as he takes the curve.
A ballad plays and she waits. She is nervous, so much so she got physically ill earlier.
The road is thin and rural with no light outside the ones he has on the truck. A thumping bass vibrates the windows.
She distracts herself with puzzles she can't solve and reminds herself to breathe.
His mind is aching with three months of exile, a building hunger. He needs to see her.
She is flattered by need but pressured by want.
He turns into the drive. She sees his lights.
A brightly lit cafe in the middle of the afternoon. Two old friends have a booth. He studies the coffee spoon as he moves it with his thumb between each finger. She watches his hand.
You won't believe what happened, what I did.
He looks up at her, I can't wait to hear this.
It was so random and I don't even know why and I don't regret it.
I think I just wanted to see things through a man's eyes. Ya' know, your eyes.
What the hell are you talking about?
Everything but the feelings changed that day.
He stops to get gas in the old pickup, starts walking in to pay and notices her husband in the window. The husband waves and points. He turns around and there she is sitting in the Suburban, baby in lap. Her face says she doesn't want to be seen but he has no choice now 'cause anything short of walking up to the window and exchanging the customary niceties of two old friends would lead her husband to think there was more to it than that.
And nobody has time for the tale of a broken heart.
Wake up wherever you fell asleep. Feel the rush of where, when, how, why. Billy Sue is here but not startled. This routine has settled into her small bones. She has a pillow on the couch, a pillow on the bed, a pillow on the floor. She looks at me but stays put. It won't be till later I hear the tap of her nails on the hard floor. She knows where I will be and she knows what I will be doing. She expects the music, knows the candle will be lit. There is a hushed bass later behind the ruckus of thoughts.
I once visit a family off a rural but paved road in Charleston. I love their house but I don't think I am supposed to. Someone, somewhere along the way told me to pity them for their lack so I fake it although Modena taught me nobody ever truly fakes it. They only pretend they do. She planted something in my brain via a fried peach pie she made while she smiled. It is clear to me on a supernatural level that woman had powers I only slightly touched.
The family lives behind old stained wood pieced together in a fashion only slightly more sophisticated than the tree house I built as a child. There are holes where windows used to be. How beautiful the wind must be on a hot day when it sneaks in and is married to the one small fan in the middle of a main room. This is where they sleep, a man and a woman labeled by our society as elderly and thin and potentially ill and in poverty and confusing to those of us who have more. Yet I can't help but notice their smiles. They have Modena smiles and I can't hide thinking anything I try to hide from these people will only amuse them. There is a knowing in their eyes saying I may as well be naked.
So I appreciate them. I laugh with them when we discuss how I am supposed to be here to help them. What do they need? How do they feel about that? How do they get groceries? Your son? He lives in town? How often do you see your son? They are fine and who am I. Where am I from?
This is English but a language all itself as well. Their answers require careful thought and any rush I felt getting here is released in this room. When the fan is going at all the way to the right speed you can feel a certain something is going fast enough in order for you to slow down. I ask questions. They provide answers. This is a slow celebratory song. These people are not pitiful and pity is not love.
These are lives to be treasured and adored. These are smiles to be witnessed. That guy who came here and took pictures, one silhouette of a little boy dancing on a flat Delta land. That boy was the grandson of a blues artist from this state and he was dancing to his Papaw's song and even in the blackness of a silhouette you couldn't hide the smile on that baby's face. Or his Granddaddy's.
Although you tried.
The story you wrote around that photograph was one of poverty and a people lesser than and you can go back to California with that story. It is thankfully a free country which means I wanted to buy that photograph before I heard what you thought of it. To me you missed the point. You never even heard the music. You were too busy setting up the shot to recognize you were telling us about you and that's what happens when you bring California to Mississippi.
Don't worry. We'll welcome you back with sweet tea and fried pies and you can sit on our front porches or in our one room homes with a speeding fan and we'll laugh and tell you our stories but don't ever think for a moment we don't see how you're pretending to fake it.
We're at a steakhouse in Como where old brick lines one side of the road, where it is hard to get a parking space. I guess if you only had one thing to say about Como then it would be history. It feels weathered by secrets. It is a town that shines at night, shines brilliantly. No big city lights, just a conglomerate of shine. Underneath is the best steak you will ever or never put in your mouth.
You'll never find anyone who treats you better than me.
What does that mean? I ask.
We are in the back of the restaurant, a place where non smoking meets smoking and drinking and old black and whites of livestock and people. You will want to walk up to at least one photo. Do it, everyone has. As you walk you will notice the thick wood floors. They are sturdy with a shake.
It means, Shea, nobody will treat you as good as I do.
What if I don't have to be treated?
I am sitting on a long booth bench facing the most perfectly lit, mirrored above hard stained wood, goes from here to there bar. The favorite whiskeys are presented as if they are classic music, and I guess they are. It feels lonely and social at the same time. Wear whatever you would like. That one guy at the bar with overalls and white t-shirt, he knows the lady who just walked in all dressed up for a night. He went to school with her.
What do you mean? You don't have to be treated?
What if you got the wrong girl? What if there was a time in my life where I needed someone to treat me a certain way and then I found out that I was okay not being treated? You need someone younger than me.
Everyone needs someone.
I notice a table off to the left, a television high in the right corner. Sports of one kind or another are being played on it. A ticker tape moves just as fast as this place feels slow and thoughtful. There is a group of men ages fifty and above sitting at the table. It is election time and they are election. They are black and white and dressed nicely with shirts and dark jeans handled by the cleaners. They are loud by nature. One thick one says, I love sunshine. I love Jesus. Vote for me. That's all it takes to get votes here in this state. The guys around the table chuckle and nod but I assure myself that at least one of them wants to tell him to shut his face.
I have many. Have you met my family? Mom, Dad, Jason, Josh, Priscilla, Madalyn. Have you ever heard of a kid named Slater? Yeah. Do you know my friends? Oh my gosh, I can't keep up 'cause I have so many someones in my life and they all treat me exactly as I need to be treated. But I do love you. Does that help?
No. I want you to only want me, a man woman relationship.
You're a man. I'm a woman. We have a relationship.
It's not enough.
Did you hear what that guy over at that table said?
I jot down the big man's words on a napkin. They seem significant. I am amused he thinks the people of Mississippi are that stupid. Like being from this state he bought into the lie about this state. I have to think that at least some of us see through his shenanigans and his views make him, let's say, less attractive to us. I want to be courageous enough to walk to his table, pull up a chair, pat him on the shoulder and say, I like that you love Jesus. I love him too and I love sunshine when it's not beating down on me in August but I also love the people who represent this state to think about issues we face on a daily basis and not just a general feeling which marks a majority.What do you think, sir, about a woman's control over her own body? What, sir, do you think about a person's right to die with dignity? Sir, can you please let me know what you think about the osmosis of our monetary system? What does freedom mean to you, sir? Let's start there. But I don't 'cause our votes will tell him what we think. I have never been under the impression the people of this state are stupid but we don't mind the rap since it also means we are underestimated.