Chapin City Blues

Writing is writing whether done for duty, profit, or fun.

First Day of Autumn

September 30, 2015

An egg sits alone. An egg sits alone in a nest. An egg sits alone in a nest which is tucked upon the branches of an oak tree that shoots up from the middle of the yard. This tree, which houses the nest in which the lone egg sits, towers high above the other trees. Its shade envelopes the yard no matter the position of the sun. And for this reason, the man who lives in the house the yard surrounds, has hung two tire swings upon the lower branches. In the morning, the man pushes his son on the swing on the left side of the tree. In the evening, the man and his son uses the swing on the right side of the tree. And during their hours spent swinging, the egg remains alone in the nest. A breeze blows in, causing the man and his son to head back into the house. The house remained in the man’s family since before he existed. He is the last of his immediate family, and is glad he had a son. The two sit by the window facing the backyard where the tree and the swings and the lone egg in the nest resides. The breeze grows harder and the chilled wind begins to fill the world around them. The man perks up and scurries into the kitchen. His son remains at the table by the window facing the backyard. The son hears his father rattling pots and opening the refrigerator and clamoring things on the stove. His curiosity pushes him to look, but the boy remains at the table by the window which looks out into the backyard and directly at the tree. The two tire swings move with the wind, and the boy marvels at the quickness of the gray clouds roving overhead. Just a few minutes ago, the tree spilled its shade upon the yard and now all shadows were muted by the overcast. The father returns shortly with two mugs. He places one in front of his son and takes his place on the empty seat. He brings his mug to his lips and feels the heat of the hot cocoa rise to greet them. They must be careful—both are prone to burning the tips of their tongues on the first sip. The son laughs at his father’s creamy, hot chocolate mustache while smudging his own with the back of his bare arm. The two remain silent, watching the tire swings sway with the wind. Both shiver at the crack of thunder. Both are enamored by the sound for the prattling rain. And the boy reaches for his father’s hand. And the father takes his son’s hand. And neither one wants to break the silence. Neither of them wants it to continue. And the egg, sitting alone in a nest which its builder tucked within the branches of an oak, begins to tilt. It tilts and tilts and tilts until it crashes into the earth.

This Post Is About Three Things

September 28, 2015

“You have to be WILLING to write badly.”

It’s scrawled on the wall with Sharpie by my post-high school hand. This during a day when my Brother typewriter rested on a dilapidated desk which survived three brothers. Still survives to this day, though I dare not try resting in my laptop upon it. It stands on its last leg, no cliché intended. Recent high school graduate me saw these words in a different light. A writer who forces the craft churns out terrible passages. A writer needed to wait for inspiration. Needed the exact words before sitting in front of the screen and pounding the keys away. A writer needed to feel the words upon his fingertips. Anything else would just not do. Now ask me how much writing 18-year-old me did during those days.

“You have to be WILLING to write badly.”

You can’t fail in this life if you never try. You don’t give yourself the opportunity to win that way, either. Writers waiting for that moment of inspiration to write may never scribble a single creative sentence in their life. In my older age, the writing on the wall says something else. In order for someone to write badly, one needs to write. You must have that will in you to pour out your emotions and thoughts into whatever medium you choose.

Edgar Rice Burroughs said it best: “If you write one story, it may be bad; if you write a hundred, you have the odds in your favor.

It’s no different than the similar adage: “You must be willing to try to fail.” I based most of my adolescent life not writing because the moment wasn’t right. The inspiration wasn’t there. I spent most of my life standing on the sidelines because the field frightened me. Dear readers, I misled you. You were expecting a post about me growing as a writer. Instead you’re getting one about a man realizing how much time he’s wasted not knowing the answers.

You see, there’s this woman I like. I’ve liked her for some time now, though I only admitted to myself a month ago. I carried around this secret, letting it eat me alive. And I waited to own up to these feelings. I figured there was a time and place for sharing such things and they would present themselves. But every opportunity that opened proved only a nailed window.

So I told her via the worse medium possible—I sent her a text. Sure, I beat around the bush because, did I want to tell her this way? If you think about it, how did this differ from my adolescent approach? The only difference being that I received responses in a matter of seconds, not class periods.

And now she knows. And now I don’t have to carry it a secret anymore. Though, we haven’t spoken about it since. I guess we can’t win them all, and I don’t want to seem bothersome about it. I suppose a time and place will present themselves when she brings it up.

Dear readers, I’m afraid I mislead you again. This post isn’t about me growing as an adult attempting to put himself out in the romantic realm again. You see, there’s an idea growing in my head. And before it comes to fruition, I need a partner. I contacted an old college classmate, a creative writer, and told her what’s brewing in my mind.

I thought about this a lot. I mentioned it on the blog already. Several times on Tumblr. And now we’ll be working together on this venture because I trust her more than my other creative buddies (for good reason).

So I guess this post is about me learning that I can dream all I want; although, if I’m not willing to make that extra effort, dreams they’ll remain. And I gotta say, I might have been content with not knowing if I’ll succeed or fail when I was eighteen years old. But damnit, I have to know at thirty-two.

Waiting for the Bus

September 24, 2015

And there we were. Standing on the corner of First and Adams, waiting for the bus to arrive. The way she leaned up against the street lamp, infinite scarf hanging off her neck—did she make that herself, I wondered, but thought better than asking her because she seemed too self-involved with that cigarette pressed lightly on her ruby red lips. I dared not to speak a word to her, though we lived several endings in my mind. I wondered often where she got off or where she was leaving. Making a conversation with such a beautiful woman, unheard of! No, better just coax my time. Wait until a moment arrived and have something pithy to say to her because she seemed the type of girl who wanted a man who knew his way around the words, not the stuttering bastard that I can transform into whenever I open my mouth. It didn’t matter who I spoke to. Not really. Close friends still had me up against the wall when it came to speaking, but they didn’t know. They thought it was all part of my personality, though, in a way, I guess they’re not exactly all wrong. Still no matter how much time I spent around a person, beautiful or not—interesting or banal—I still froze up in the mouth and sputtered out words like a helicopter zipping by.

Once I thought I offer her some sort of mint. Did I really want to come off as the guy who carried mints in his pocket? The type of schmuck who ate garlic and onions for his lunch? The sort of guy who knew his halitosis reached the farthest nose in the office? The type cheapskate who picked up women at seedy bars and sprayed Binaca before introducing himself to the women who just came in for a quick drink—‘Ello dere, babe, sprits sprits, soy Carlito. You wan ta have dee sexo con migo? And where would I get mints, anyway? I didn’t carry any, though there were some tucked the top drawer back at the office for those just in case moments.

Twice already she looked my way and smile. That smile of hers sent grown men to see therapists because they’d never seen something so amazing and beautiful before, and feared they would never experience anything that topped it. What’s the point, Doc? One look at that smile and I knew my life was over. Over, I tell you. Over, Doc. I gave her my best half smirk. The sort of smirk that should say that I’m available for a conversation, but wouldn’t know where to begin because nothing can distract me away from that smile of yours. Such a beautiful smile.

The forecast threatened rain, but she didn’t carry an umbrella. This made me feel a bit insecure about mine. How does one hold an umbrella while waiting for a bus in a dignified fashion? Resting on my shoulder like a continental soldier? Tip pressed against the ground with my body sort of leaning upon it? Tuck it underneath my arm while I made small talk about the clouds overhead?

Three cars sped by. Two of them honking their horns and shouting obscenities at her. She seemed unfazed, but I felt my blood simmering beneath my skin. Who did those chumps think they were? Where do they get off talking like that to a lady, to this woman? If I had the nerve, I’d…what? What would I do? Certainly not go speeding after them. Certainly not shouting an obscenity at them. No. No. Dear little old me would never hurt a fly even if that fly deserved it. I gave her a weak smile, an apology for my sex. Don’t think nothing of it. They’re not worth the misery. Don’t give a second thought. Because that’s the kind of woman she was. Even acknowledging bottom feeders in muscle cars gave them the satisfaction of gaining one’s attention. Ignoring them just injured their egos. Sure they might speak louder, become more offensive, but they wouldn’t break you. Wouldn’t get what they’re after. And that made you stronger. I marveled at her genius. At her strength. At her ability to stand taller, sail higher than anyone I’ve ever met. Oh yes, this woman. With her smile. And her courageousness. This woman excelled all other women in my life.

The drop landed on my nose. For a second, I froze thinking some bird, flying by, had decided to use my head as a porta-potty. The second drop fell. And a third. And before I could count a forth, the rain came down heavy. Even in the white noise of it all, I heard her tiny curse. How had she not brought an umbrella? How could she not think this far ahead? Or maybe she didn’t have good enough fortune to own one? Or maybe the one she owned was lost in transit some weeks ago? And while I pondered the workings of her mind, the opportunity presented itself to me with neon flashing lights. This was my chance to break the ice. To make that first move and spark up a conversation with her. And we’d lose ourselves in each other’s words. And she’d playfully slap my chest when I’d say something funny and utter something in the lines of, You’re just too much, Phil. Just. Too. Much. And I’d shake my head and waggle my brows and we’d board the bus hand in hand and sit on the only empty seat at the back of the bus and just lean into each other, still laughing, and thinking about where we go from there. And I would learn what she did for a living—a nanny for two snotty little brats who lived uptown with their tyrannical mother and pushover father, but she only did this while she saved up enough money to open the vintage record and book store. And I’d tell her about my job, explaining how it was only temporary even though I was entering my fifth year. And we’d fall in love at that exact moment. And we’d never look back.

Before I even fumbled with my umbrella, the bus—the number nine—pulled up and opened its doors. She trotted inside, leaving me standing alone in the rain. I smiled at the bus driver and boarded.

“Oh well,” I said. “Maybe next time.”


A quick note about this piece. It’s unedited. It’s just a stream of conscious piece that I typed while listening to a jazz radio station on Google Play Music. Even though it was typed on the spot without any planning, I was inspired by something I heard today on a podcast about how we tend to “draw conclusions about someone from the most superficial evidence.” Maybe in the future, I’ll come back and revisit this stream of consciousness and feed it more. Who knows. The podcast that inspired this piece is linked below.

 

Under Construction (Ripped from the Journal)

September 18, 2015

If only I had the foresight to record your every word, every whisper, I could lie here listening to the sound of your voice when I need you most.

In my dreams, you speak to me in English. Find you waiting on the front porch. The sky moonlit and spackled with stars. You tighten your shawl with the passing breeze.

Prosopagnosia_AphantasiaWe found an old table top tape recorder which my brothers and I used to record plays we found in various books. Books were limited, so we ran through variations of the same plays. Princess and the Frog seemed our favorite. Each weekend we’d gather around, remembered our lines. Changed up the voices. Added our own SFX. High voices for the princess; low ones for the king; grumbles for the frog. As always, our best Michael Winslow impressions for the eating scene.

The final recording made years before you left us remained forgotten. Neither brother thought of it because by then we were respectively adult, post-adolescent, and coming-of-age. None of these cassettes survived the discovery of mix tapes, girlfriends, and our favorite radio jams. Not this one. No, by whatever power may be this one feel into the cracks only to find itself in my mother’s possession—you daughter’s hands. Not knowing it held a connection to the next world, the old lady plays it to hear the glees of a prepubescent me. When her children were sill children and her mother there to show her the way.

“¿Dónde está mami?” you say. And you sing. And you talk. And you call out for me. For Wilaso.

¿Dónde está mami?

Where did you go?

My son is too young to ask me what happens when we die. Do I spoon feed him the same bullshit they fed me? That there’s a magical place in the sky, but the man who’ll lead us there might want to touch him? Do I tell him he will come back as something greater? That we’re energy and energy never dies, just becomes something else? And what becomes of us after we’re gone? Just a static underlining to the cackling of children recording puppet plays. The sounds of our voices reduced to memory. And memories fade and die away. Until we no longer exist. Dying another death we’re not present for.

Lessons in Love & Loss Pt. 1

September 14, 2015

Dear Jeanna,

I see us in the faces of young lovers. And a cynical smirk might brush past my lips whenever I see these post-adolescent paramours. The way they exchange glances at bookstores while browsing Kafka. Or the way the world melts away as they hold hands in the library. I still see us in them like photo albums taken down from the shelf. These days I look back on to the better ones, daydreaming about where we’d be now if I had made more than just a half-ass attempt.

There isn’t a beautiful breath of indifference exhaled when I think of you. I spent a third of my life loving you. I’ll spend thirty more doing the same. There are times I forget you’re not there. Mornings I wake up from a dream, and I swear I can still feel your presence next to me. Your warmth. I wondered if you ever did the same. Sometimes it’s a song that transports me back in time. A montages play. A personal soundtrack or music video. Most of them aren’t songs we heard together. Some are new or new to me. Remembering what I lost is no different than a missing pet flyer. Sometimes aren’t recovered because they aren’t lost. We gave up. We let go. We moved on.

I fell into a pattern, taking everything for granted. Press me and I couldn’t tell you the last time I complimented your beauty. Several attempts to remind you each day went the way of every broken promise I made you. You brought out the best in me and repaid you with my worse. I’ve done good things, Jeanna, but I’m not a good person. While I never showed you any violence, there’s no ignoring the emotional detachment. My anger. My manipulation. I made it about me. I felt suffocated. Claustrophobic. Never took into account your turmoil. The way your mind betrayed your wellbeing. Not once did I extend that hand of gratitude. You’ve pulled me out of the dark so many times in our relationship, and I turned my back on you. It’s a sad summation of our nine years.

I never told you this, but a part of you must have known. In a moment of depressing clarity, I wanted to leave you. To push you so far from my toxicity. We lay in my bed, watching a movie or TV show. You asked me if anything was wrong, and I answered with my usual “I’m ok.” I wasn’t that I woke up with the intention of ending things with you. And the realization that you were better off without me scraped my mind. I broke down. Tears welled and broke forth. And you took care of me as you always did. Maybe you knew what I was building towards, and you talked me out of it. That’s just the way you were.

You once called yourself the absent lover. We were mending our broken relationship. We were both lost, then. But even now I think about the way you’d kiss me whenever I read or watched TV or didn’t pay you any attention. You weren’t going through the motions. Neither of us were just the chased and the chaser.

The first few nights were heavy with a sense of weightlessness. It’s far too easy for someone to lose track of time. A year becomes two becomes five becomes nine. And it doesn’t feel long enough. As children, time seems like this ever expanding thing that spreads farther than we can see. From 10 to 20 seems like a Tolkien-sized journey. As an adult, the time burns too fast. Only 12 years ago, we were trying to make this relationship work. Maybe we were building a future. Maybe we were just fooling ourselves. It just wasn’t enough time, though. Or we spent too much time on something that wasn’t doomed from the start. It didn’t come without it’s happiest moments. My best memories are the ones I spent with you. And the best gift is our beautiful son. 20-year-old me can’t fathom what I know now.

The night you broke up with me, I recalled the innocence early in our relationship. The I-love-yous and the I-love-you-mores. Late conversations and random games of truth or dare. And I cried. Now there’s this odd feeling. Innocence mixed with sadness. Nostalgia. There are so many shards of memories I want to share with you. Maybe to put together. Maybe to bury. I don’t know what I want you to do with them. The only thing I am certain is these pieces aren’t meant to hollow a path to return to us. They aren’t bread crumbs from a crumbling romance grown stale and moldy. They’re just shards of memories. A declaration. A proclamation. That we loved each other once. That we existed. That I’m sorry for all the things I put you through and the promises I never kept. They’re just reminders that I never intended on letting you down.

Yours,

Will