Ashes & Embers

The flames that once licked the wind had been satisfied. The fire was all but extinguished now. Soft, tiny flecks of ash drifted through the still, night air. The last of the embers were aglow with nostalgia and sadness.

The sky had been alight not long ago with streaks of color and flashes of light — an annual rite of passage, a celebration. Otherwise the night was calm, a peace had descended upon this place.

Somewhere in the space between there were boyhood memories and the struggles of fatherhood, the sting of failure and the pain of regret. Ideas were mulled, thoughts shared and what had seemed a bitter end revealed itself to be something more.

This was no parting of the ways, this was a changing of the guard. This was no broken fellowship, this was a passing of the torch. A bond born in days past reaffirmed, strengthened through blood and tears.

From ashes and embers — scorched flesh, brotherhood.

Damned like Dexter, Jinxed like Jax

It’s a peculiar thing, depression — the way it ebbs and flows. There was a period of time not so long ago that I had convinced myself that I had tamed the demon, cornered it, caged it. I don’t think that belief was foolishness or arrogance, it was true at the time. Trouble is, depression is patient and wily and it’s likely hitched a ride on my back for as long as I shall exist.

I’m in a funk the likes of which I haven’t experienced in fifteen years and in some ways this bout is worse, much worse. Yes, I’ve created and adapted strategies in that time to better combat the darkness inside of me but with that wisdom so too comes weariness.

I do not possess the youthful exuberance I once did. I cannot bounce back as easily or as agilely as I once was able. I also have responsibilities now and no longer possess the luxury of dropping out of sight for a spell. I am a father to a boy who knows nothing of the shadow that chases me and I hope he never does.

Try as I might to put on a brave face and soldier onward, those around me can see that something is off.

I haven’t shaved in over a week.

I am almost always tired.

It’s said that I look sad by friends and strangers alike.

I often find myself romanticizing the past, wishing I could go back. It’s funny, because as a child, as a teenager, and even as a young adult I did little else but dream of a future, a future that was bright. I envision that future less and less now, stuck as I am in the suffocating minutia of daily life with depression as a constant companion.

It reminds me of something said by Sally Jupiter in The Watchman:

“Everyday the future looks a little bit darker. But the past, even the grimy parts of it, well, it just keeps getting brighter all the time.”

Sleep used to be a respite from the depression but lately even my dreams have turned against me, transforming from vivid curiosities to an unrelenting, subconscious nightmare. I am offered no reprieve from the pain and I have begun to wonder if the wonder drugs aren’t simply acting as accelerant for the vibrant hellscape in my head.

It’s difficult to find hope these days and yet here I am typing away, documenting this — praying that through it I find some catharsis, some refuge, some hope.

I am a desperate man in a desperate time, forever searching for salvation.

Orientation

I just want to drop. Drop dead? No, I don’t think so. What I need is to drop right out of existence. I am exhausted and overwhelmed, frustrated and weary. Lately, I’ve had too many days like today. It was Ground Hog’s Day yet again.

I didn’t even have the energy to untie my shoelaces so I simply pried them off by driving the front of one foot into the heel of the other until the shoe popped off. Yeah, yeah. It probably took more time and required more energy to do that than using the proper method.

I know.

I don’t care.

The point is I should have walked straight to bed and face planted into a pillow, but here I am, typing. Why? What compels me to do this on a day such as today. A day that has bested me on every level. Furthermore, how is it that I came to have such a day? I had experienced a string of good days, full of hope and light.

And then today came.

Why the shift?

Sometimes, my moods remind me of the surreal, science-fiction film, Cube. In it, a group of people awake inside of a series of cube-shaped rooms without any memory as to how they came to be there. The strangers must figure out a way to escape the labyrinthine structure which proves difficult for several reasons, most notable among those are the deadly booby-traps that dot the landscape.

However, the traps are really just a distraction. Navigating the titular compound is the real problem because the bastard, get this, rotates and revolves. The characters must crack some numerical code to escape the claustrophobic enclosure.

Are you beginning to appreciate the difficulty of the task? It’s like trying to solve a gigantic Rubix’s Cube of death from the inside. You can imagine the domino effect one wrong move can produce. My mood seems to be of a similar, complex craftsmanship.

I’d like to hang my hat on the fact that none of the booby-traps have successfully claimed me but that doesn’t necessarily improve my odds of escape, no it only increases the chance that I’ll succumb to thirst, starvation or insanity.

Waking Up, Wanting

I dreamed of her the other night.

This girl that has wormed her way into my mind. This girl that has ensnared my heart.

The dream was vivid and colorful, bizarre and outlandish. There was singing and dancing, even choreography for the love of God. It was a bona fide horror drama, a macabre musical and I was the central character.

It all took place in some kind of nightmarish bungalow which served as the clubhouse for a newfangled secret society. The space was dingy and cluttered. Around every turn some piece of theater was on display — a dramatic reading, a contortionists’ dance.

A sense of ecstasy hung in the air mingled as it were with distrust, betrayal and danger. A wild lust pervaded the atmosphere. There was a want, an expectation of sex.

This was primal.

All of those gathered here seemed to share a collective consciousness of that fact, but it was never voiced aloud merely hinted at in whispers and winks, acknowledged in smirks and sneers.

Impossibly, I bounded on all fours as a beast, dashing through levels of the structure and crashing through ceilings, sending debris raining down upon rooms and revelers. No one impeded my progress, nor did I stop to consider the repercussions of my actions. It was all impulse and instinct.

Each of us bore some costume or body paint as to conceal our identity, but the disguises were a farce because each of us knew exactly who the others were. The elaborate outfits were for ourselves — a comfortable lie, a safe charade.

I myself donned a long, dark coat and upon my head was a hideous ensemble — thick tubes and large orbital sockets punctuated a jet-black gas mask. I was more monster than man. I stood on a small, circular podium and delivered some melodramatic nonsense that seemed to please the crowd.

When that bit of nickelodeon had concluded I departed the stage and sought her out. Her dark hair hung thickly around her shoulders. Her body bore vibrant splashes of color, her breasts in particular had been covered in a phosphorescent blue.

We walked.

She spoke.

I listened.

Her voice was full of confidence and clarity, but her words belied the broken sadness that dwelt within, a sadness mirrored in my own heart.

In costume we played our parts — a would be queen and a fool.

Shades of Blue

Yesterday was a good day. I say yesterday in the strictly calendar sense of the word because the clock creeps toward 4am and I have yet to sleep. So, yeah, today or yesterday. The choice is yours.

It was Father’s Day. I was with my son under the sun at the beach. I needed this day. A day to relax and reflect and simply enjoy the sheer state of existence. My life has been difficult in recent years, marked by hardship and marred by heartbreak. But this day was balm on those wounds.

I swam with my boy.

Let’s call him Dean.

Dean is an energetic, mischievous and intelligent toddler with sapphire eyes and a personality so innocent and beautiful that strangers routinely smile and stare.

I tossed him into the air, we wadded into the water. He laughed, he smiled. He confided would be secrets to his dad, joyfully revealing that his grandmother had earlier treated him to a fast-food restaurant. We both laughed. I kissed his cheek and snuggled him to my chest.

Dean is precious.

Dean is my redemption.

We found a rock in the sand beneath the water. I held it aloft and examined it under the sunlight. I ran my fingers across the contours and admired the streaks of color it held. I wondered how far that rock had traveled, what places had it seen?

I handed the rock to Dean. He smiled and then casually threw it back into the water without a second thought. There was a small splash which caused Dean to giggle, an infectious grin spread across his face all the way to his bright eyes. I think now that Dean had the right idea. It didn’t matter how that rock had come to be only that it existed at all.

The fact that it made a funny sound as it sunk was a delightful bonus.

Fingerprints

“And if I only could, make a deal with God, and get him to swap our places…”

My fingertips bleed ink. It’s true. Well, not literally of course, but what an interesting if not useless mutant superpower that would be.

Figuratively, absolutely. My fingertips bleed ink.

Writing is cathartic, therapeutic, restorative. Hell, it’s transformative.

The point is, I need to write. I need to write just as I need to drink water or breathe oxygen. It is essential to my existence. It is something I’ve always enjoyed to do, but not something I have always made a priority.

I pay for that.

There’s always a price and the price that’s extracted from me for this neglect is a form of mind-racing misery — a reminder that time drips away and in its place is left a festering wound born of being unfulfilled.

My entire life has taken on a quality of fevered desperation.

Work. Home. Money. Love.

Desperate. All of it. So desperate.

I am desperate to succeed. I am desperate for change. I am desperate for fulfillment.

I often ponder death and the thing that bothers me the most about it is the prospect of having left something undone. I believe the only true fear I have is the chance of growing old without having pursued my passions, having settled for excuses that resulted in a half-realized life.

I have spent much of my life worrying about the future and that has blinded me to the opportunities of the present. That’s over. It must be. I have wasted enough of my life on worry.

I want to live. I want to dream. I want to do.

Stain the page.

A scrawled, smudged record of my being, my energy — a blot of thought.

My fingertips bleed ink.