On New Year’s Eve

Providence is frozen tonight. Nothing moves unless it shivers. Time has stopped and so have the wheels of change.

It is bitterly cold out and everything is covered in an armor of snow. Every branch, every twig, every trembling leaf bears a white helmet of it. Invisible rabbits and deer have left Morse code in it: “once, we were here and we ran.”

The sky is dark except for the city’s orange aura.

Welcome to New Year’s Eve three paces north of Providence, Rhode Island. My fingers keep hitting the wrong keys because I am numb. The cold isn’t a temperature, it’s a state of existence that forced water heat and cups of coffee, even in excess, were not designed to contend with. It is 72 degrees here in my apartment, and I shiver.

Tonight I am home alone with my two cats. When the ball drops in Times Square I’ll be watching it on TV, under a blanket. Ten years ago I would have shuddered at the thought. I’ve had a bad cold for the past few days, though, and a quiet night doesn’t seem like a bad deal right now.

I have this unshakable feeling that all hell is about to break loose in my life. I’ve been sitting on a volcano of change and it’s going to blow. My seat is getting warm. Often I feel like change will never come, but as Victor Hugo said, “nothing is more imminent than the impossible.” For after the tectonic slowness of change buried unseen within the earth, one day, an explosion! It happens just that way. In a week, or a month, I might well be wishing for a night of solitude. So maybe savoring this particular night in silence is a good way to say goodbye to the old and welcome the new.

I don’t know why I’m telling you all this, to quote The Perks of Being a Wallflower’s narrator. This is supposed to be one of those New Year’s messages — a thank you for reading, liking, following, being a friend. And to you bloggers, screenwriters, writers, photographers and artists — for your inspiration. As humble (and halting) as this blog is, it’s introduced me to dozens of other bloggers already, and so many new worlds. It’s been well worth the effort I’ve put into it; then some.

So I’ll keep this short and wish you and yours a 2013 that contains somewhere in it your heart’s desire. I’ll add a plea: continue writing, sculpting, photographing, dancing — whatever it is you do that shows people how to see and think differently. As creative people, we suggest the possible. Not the probable, or the preferable, or God forbid the correct. The possible.

Paraphrasing someone, when the world is frozen in winter we breathe warmly on it to remind it that there’s something called spring. In an instant, everything changes.

Elegy for the Living

I dreamed light spilled on wet railroad tracks, two moist eyes of light wide open. Bright. The dream had no soundtrack, no train whistle warning, no protest of steel wheels braking, like a child’s octaves-too-high scream playing hide-and-seek on a last day of autumn when hide-and-seek was still a game. A brightening of the light, a blackness and awake. There is a pain in being awake, to keep us from wanting to stay too long, and to ease our grip on the wrists of loved ones as we choose to let them go, slip, asleep. The most frightful dreams are shadowed by the waken world.

 

©2012 Jason Anderson

Frozen (Part 2)

(Part 1 can be found here.)

January 7

I had nothing to do with whatever happened to my father. Probably he just got drunk one time too many. It happened every day, as far back as I can remember. Worse after what happened to mom, but it happened before too. He was a life-long drunk, and that’s the best I can say about him.

January 9

I wonder if they find you frozen solid whether they thaw you out for the autopsy, or they just leave things well enough alone? They gotta do an autopsy. Nobody just freezes to death except drunks, but sometimes even drunks are already dead when they get frozen. So they gotta find out why it happened.

January 11

I’m still in Columbus, Ohio and God knows why. The trade show is long over and I can’t even tell my boss I’m still seeing prospects here with a straight face. It’s Columbus: it’s worth about two full days and that’s it. Unless you’re staying for “other reasons,” he said. “Personal reasons.” Pretty transparent code for ‘not getting paid.’

I went back last night to the club where I met Aaron. No idea why. I didn’t see him, but I saw something else that looked right up my alley. As we were about to leave (I’ll call him Matt because I’m not going to remember his name), there’s Aaron directly in our path. Out of nowhere. He and Matt were friends – I guess ‘were’ being the operative word. Aaron must have been fucked up because his eyes were too shiny in the flashing lights.

He said that I told him I loved him, and I said “I did?” and then “Oh yeah, I did.” And then I had to explain to him how when you do these things, sometimes you say things because they make everything more intense. It’s an experience you’re creating. Matt seemed to get it without any more explanation, but Aaron was beyond livid.

Aaron doesn’t ever say things he doesn’t mean, I guess, or just doesn’t appreciate it when others do it. He’s a real girl, that one. He cried and made a few threats, and vanished into the strobe lights and the silhouettes jerking around like puppets on the dance floor.

January 12

I know sometimes weather is only weather, but tonight it is snowing like it can’t snow this hard without a purpose behind it. Snow is quiet but it’s always the quiet ones, and if you were paying attention in the first place you could’ve told that the quiet one was the angriest. You should have known, and so it’s your own damn fault. That’s how it’s snowing tonight.

January 15

There’s no point in saying I wouldn’t do something again if I don’t know why I did it in the first place, is there? I just don’t know and it’s eating at me, but not in a sin and repent kind of way. I want to know what was going through my head that made me lash out like that.

What if a guy works his whole life to do things right and good and then something like that can come all of a sudden out of nowhere and ruin everything? That doesn’t make sense to me. Where’s the God in that? How can you build, and plan?

I got a call this morning from the FBI. Agent Lam, it was, asked me to come to their local office tomorrow to answer more questions. I asked if I was a suspect and Lam said I wasn’t, but because of my relationship with the victim I could be very helpful. So, another night in Columbus, Ohio. Maybe my last, we’ll see.

There’s nothing current on the internet about my father’s death. The shelf life of a story about a drunk or a junkie dying in a ditch is very short.

January 16

On the way out of the hotel this morning I swore I caught sight of Aaron’s shaggy brown hair around a side street. But I was only a quick glimpse and I haven’t ever seen him in daylight, so I was probably mistaken.

Memory shadows. A sign that I gotta get out of this shithole. The walls close in a lot quicker in small towns. I’m going to L.A. next. I could live for months in L.A.

The FBI interview wasn’t anything to write home about. I guess that’s funny in a way, since there’s no one left at home to read it. Except my brother Jim, but he’s probably already gone back to Atlanta. He knew better than to email me again.

Agent Lam asked the same questions the sheriff did, stuff relating to my father. Then about the dates of my trip here, which he already knew but I guess he was just trying to trip me up. He asked why I was still here in Columbus and I told him what I already told you, I had no idea. Then he told me that some nineteen-year-old guy named Jared Wilson was found dead, overdosed by the river and frozen solid. I said I never heard the name, but when Lam showed me his picture I recognized him immediately.

I knew his name wasn’t really Matt, I told you that. Lam didn’t exactly show me his yearbook photo – it was the “after” photo instead, and I’m surprised I still recognized him. Somehow under all the ugliness of what overdosing and dying and being frozen does to you, he was still beautiful. He was an angel. I recognized him.

Lam said someone saw me leave with Matt/Jared the night before he died. I told him the whole sordid story, and I also knew exactly who fingered me.

I told Lam that Jared was good friends with a guy named Aaron Jacobs who was a waiter at Athena next to the convention center. That Aaron was upset that night because Jared left with me. And I left it at that.

Someone’s knocking on the door as I’m writing this – how’s that for drama. Well, if this is as far as I get and I don’t write any more, I’m sure you can figure out the ending for yourself!

©2012 Jason Anderson

Intermission (my first mobile post!)

image

I originally thought that sounded impressive (look ma, no wires!) but it’s almost 2013. Get with it. Not only is it my first but I’m posting this using my phone because I couldn’t be bothered to lug my
laptop all over Manhattan. On the plus side, this phone is actually bigger than my laptop. No, not really.

It’s nice to get a break. I walked yesterday…as high as 71st Street and low as Rivington. Just walked, and watched and listened. There are a thousand – make that a million stories in the naked city.

And the city doesn’t sleep. I can attest to that from here in my second floor hotel room overlooking 3rd Avenue. Luckily I did, and was able to put out the little “beauty sleep” sign in the photo above.

I’m almost positive I’m not twice as beautiful this morning. Hell, if I was, the photo above would be of me, not the sign. I’ll look and see if there’s a difference in the other guests. Sometimes you can’t see these changes in yourself.

Taking Amtrak back to Providence tonight, feeling like I have two homes (albeit not in any bricks and mortar, mow the lawn and mark the kids’ heights on the kitchen door jamb sense) and am very, very blessed.

Especially because in the home where I woke up this morning, there’s a Starbucks across the street. And the next street. And the next.

Frozen (Part 1)

January 1

I’ve been on the go most of my life. I love the open road – it clears my head and soul. They say life on the road is lonely, but I don’t find it so at all. I meet more people in a day on the road than most folks meet in a month.

I get to a new city and I feel like it’s only the beginning. A clean slate. I love being in a place and knowing I wasn’t born there and I’m not going to die there. I’m just passing through.

I arrived in Columbus, Ohio, today, fresh from a rare layover in my least favorite place: home. That’s Rochester, New York. But Columbus is a great city. Everything’s just so and very clean, and the people are friendly — at least to your face, and when you’re passing through that’s all you need.

I’m not saying they’re not friendly down deep – I just don’t know. I’ll be staying in Columbus, Ohio for a few more days. Maybe then I’ll know.

I’m a salesman for a major aircraft parts manufacturer. No, life on the road isn’t lonely, far from it. My job lets me fly first class and stay in the best hotels everywhere, and I always know where to find company, if you know what I mean.

I’m not kidding when I say it’s the life I always dreamed of.

The only problem with Columbus, Ohio is the temperature. A body could freeze out there in a few minutes flat! But that’s no different from Rochester.


January 2

I never know who I’m going to meet next on the road. For example. Today I met a sheriff and three deputies. They met me at our booth on the show floor and wanted to show me a photograph. The sheriff asked me if I knew them man in it. I immediately said yes – he was a cousin of mine. My father’s cousin.

I answered few other questions, where was the last time I’d seen him, when was that, how close was our relationship – until it hit me and I said, “is this a murder investigation?” “Not yet,” was all one of the deputies said. He was really cocky and looked at me as if he already had the handcuffs on me.

Then the interview was over – they didn’t even tell me what they knew.

(Later)

I don’t know what it is about a young body. Some people are so captivating that you don’t just want them, you want to be them. I’m not good enough with words to do it all justice.

Aaron I think was his name. Or Eric? I met him at a club and by 12:30 he was finally drunk enough to care about the names I dropped – people I’d met over twenty years of selling to the government and private aircraft owners. Meaning rich people.

So it started like any other night, but back at my hotel room I found he was something special. Flawless skin, creamy and smooth except when covered in goosebumps. Soft brown shaggy hair. Ropes of muscles from top to bottom, long sinewy muscles.

Perfect, honestly perfect. And the heat, the heat radiating from a body, carried on each breath – there’s nothing in the world like the heat from another human being.

This kid also knew how to make you think he gave a shit even when he didn’t. When he kissed it was like he was reaching for the back of your soul. And he was even sort of classy. Well, I said I knew how to find company.

I looked on the computer after Aaron or Eric was gone and found an article on the man the sheriff asked me about. His body was found frozen in a ditch near his home in Rochester. I laughed before I could catch myself. I already knew what happened. Another drunk frozen dead in a ditch. It’s not exactly original.

I’m surprised at how quickly the police tracked me down. I guess today everything is interconnected and they can get information from all over the country at their fingertips.

Ten years ago when my mother was killed their leads stopped dead in the suburbs of Rochester. I wonder if the police are less motivated when they know nobody else is overly interested in finding out what happened? They also didn’t have any real suspects. Back then I don’t remember the term “person of interest.” Hell, I bet we were all pretty interesting back then, the whole damn family.


January 4

His name was Aaron. No, I didn’t suddenly remember it. I found out when I read it on his name tag as he took my order at a swanky restaurant next to the convention hall.

He’d given me his real name – who does that? He actually tried to talk to me, right there at the table. I would think he’d know better. He knows better now.  I created a little bit of a scene but the guys with me were co-workers and not prospects. I don’t think poor Aaron knew what to do, he just scurried away like a rat off a sinking ship.

But then he came back a few minutes later. He continued to serve us politely and courteously, I’ll give him that, and for that my co-worker decided Aaron deserved a forty-percent tip. Kid knows how to tug at the heart strings as well as any salesman.


January 6

I have to be honest with you now. The man in the photograph was my father, not some relative of his. And now I lied to the police and said he was a distant cousin, and that’s easy enough to check and they’ll be back. Why sometimes I make things more difficult than they had to be. I just didn’t want to say it. It’s a long story – well, if you’ve seen more than a few movies, or one single movie on Lifetime, you already know the story. Can we leave it at that? I just didn’t have it in me to say it.

I got an email from my brother Jim about funeral plans. On my personal email, which I tell everyone I never check even though I really do. But I don’t feel the need to reply to Jim since I never check my personal email.

©2012 Jason Anderson

It’s going to get darker in here

(a not-very-evil writing manifesto)

The truth is I play it safe when I write, especially if I expect someone might read it. Yeah, I admit it. I’m pretty new to this writing stuff, and not many people have read anything I’ve written (I’ve made sure of that). But I often think, what will you (the reader) think? And everything gets censored by the dictatorship of self-consciousness.

Lately I feel like an archaeologist brushing away topsoil, keeping himself busy enough to ignore the fact that he’s too afraid to uncover the stunning dragons that lie deeper. Or a photographer snapping furiously away but resisting going into the darkroom.

I’m hoping the act of writing this and putting it out there will help me remember to try to live up to it. How’s that for a firm commitment.

There is a darkness. (I actually swiped that from the dust jacket of Batman: The Black Mirror.) It is undeniable. The fabric of every life is shot through with it. It wears different masks – grief, sadness, depression, addiction, abuse, anger, hatred and too many more to name.  We like to categorize – I think it makes us feel like we’re doing something.

I’ve always been a student of darkness. Yeah, I’m one of the quiet ones, but I’ve never been a violent soul, thankfully. My strength has been observing.

I’m really good at it.

I’ve seen some things. Experienced some things, too.

Humanity has a truly terrifying streak, more so than any beast or monster or devil. Not an original observation, I realize.

People say you get desensitized to things like sex and violence and human suffering but I think, if you’re lucky or unlucky like me, you don’t. The opposite happens. You don’t become darkness, you don’t get angry, your heart doesn’t weep for the world. You accept the overarching, undeniable reality of darkness, and learn to love every scrap of light you can see. Seeing people shine reminds you it’s the shining that’s remarkable, and not the darkness. Seeing them stand on their own two feet makes gravity bearable. Seeing them give unconditionally to others makes you want to, too.

The fact that people look to the light, that fact that after all you’ve seen you still look to the light, makes you want to be light.

Back to my point. So far I’ve been brushing away topsoil and taking pictures with no intention of developing them. So far I haven’t been ready to tell you about the things I’ve seen, or what I think they mean.

But it’s extremely important.

Important to me, and to one other person. I don’t know who that is, and I might never meet them. But, in this digital age, I have a fantasy that they’ll send me an email (or a text) someday, and say:

“I read something you wrote. Thank you for telling the truth as you saw it. Thank you for finally taking the risk and doing it. You didn’t save me. You provided a rung in the ladder I built to get myself out of that fucking darkness. And that was enough. Really, that was all I needed.”

More likely they’ll say “Tx, ur story was ok”. Whatever.

Thanks, by the way, for all the rungs. See, I made a ladder. I promise from here forward the stories I write will reveal the darkness in which the base of it is planted, and the magnificent view from however far up it I’ve climbed. Maybe some will also be ok.

 

©2012 Jason Anderson