Lat, Long (Page 2 of 3)

Turning Point

by

57.682996,
  11.960416
Turning Point

The one who never loses her appetite has lost her appetite.

I only feel nauseous when I think about him, but I think about him all the time. It’s been a month. I’m still wearing his t-shirt, the one I was wearing when he said it and I left in a hurry.

It’s pretty dirty by now.

On the other side of the barred windows the trees are green and bathed in light. I am allowed outside for one hour a day. As far as being locked up for mental health issues goes, I have it pretty good. It’s not that severe. At least that’s what I’m telling myself. It works when the other people in there tell me about their problems. It doesn’t work when I’m lying in my bed at night trying to cry silently so as to not wake up the other three in the room.

When people ask, I try to explain that it wasn’t just him leaving me, it was the fact that I don’t have a place in society and how can I survive when there are no jobs I can do? But even as I say it I hear it doesn’t sound believable. But it was months of thoughts about death before he tipped me over the edge. I laughed when he said he was afraid I’d kill myself. He had no idea.

A friend tells me I’ve lost some weight. I didn’t need to know that. My body is not like I knew it. I constantly feel like my heart is convulsing, trying to reject every feeling I have ever felt, tipping them into my stomach and making it impossible to eat.

Most of my days I spend in the common room. I read one book per day. The sun doesn’t make me feel guilty because I can’t just go outside. It’s a relief. I’m doing the best that I can. Someone else can enjoy the summer. I’m just trying to survive.

My favourite place is the corner of the blue couch. That’s where I read. And that’s where I’m sitting watching tv when the book has ended. That’s where I’m sitting when I take the first step toward feeling better.

It’s Beyoncé. Public television is showing a Beyoncé concert, and I’m watching noncommittally. At first. It’s fun, she’s going through her history, singing snippets of Destiny’s Child songs, and she’s a great performer.

Then it happens. “Sing it like your ex is standing right in front of you,” she says. And she sings: “it sucks to be you right now”.

It sucks to be you right now.

The words drill themselves into me and I can feel my heart stilling. That’s it. I know I’m going to get through. I’m going to feel better, I’m going to have my appetite back, I’m going to survive. That’s all there is.

I’m going to survive. That’s all there is.

Burning Alive

by

3.149772,
  101.310940
Burning Alive

The thing about the sun is that it’s always right there. Even when it’s not it’s still hotter by double digits of degrees from where you are from. It’s dark then, at night and such. But you don’t stop sweating here.

You buy a reflective umbrella and fall asleep after lunch every single day, with the buzz the ceiling fan makes at the 30 second mark to keep you company. The best days are those when you wake up to the curtains billowing like mad – flapping then tumescent then flapping again – and the rains are coming. You are still sweating around your waist where the sarong cinches, but the billowing is good. You splash water on your face and get up once more.

Where are you when there is nothing but sun? Time is fruit seasons that drift in and out and the tube of toothpaste that curls up with use on the bathroom sink. Time is the stray cat that is pregnant again after the first ones died and swelled. It is more mold in the closet and more motorbike boys who have memorized your evening jogging route.

The thing about the sun is that it coaxes seeds to unfurl and Circadian rhythms to hum. It keeps that one foot in front of the other, even when it’s easier not to.

Here the sun is brutal. Here the sun sears your flesh in a matter of minutes and etches wrinkles you are too young for.

It doesn’t stop, and neither do you. It tans your hide, this sun.

Lungs

by

36.412964,
  -80.252388
Lungs

Our lungs are ravenous. They seek to devour and heave and drench themselves in the sweet aromas of atmosphere. Their tongues wrap around the smog of the streets, the perfume of a lover, the dew along the pines. Most importantly, they communicate with nature. Wrapped within transmission between earth and sky, they pollenate every path our feet touch. Feet ribbon themselves to them as our pace hastens up the path. The higher we climb, the more energized our breath becomes.

Footprints along the rocky path hold the ghosts of smaller tennis shoes, mothers’ hands, and trotting ahead. Now, we slump fatigued bodies into the rock’s crevice, and muse at other tourists’ first breath of Rock. Our words have evolved from bug collections to graduate schools. Time has lapsed our muddy hands into professional handshakes. She has molded our tires into cities estranged by state lines. Yet this she cannot plunder. She cannot remove the swipes of tree fingers that caress our arms and plead our homecoming. She cannot starve us of the mountain’s craters. Her circling birds are but a reminder to return. For our camaraderie is stronger than her grasp. Almonds and orange scraps filtered with mountain air will sustain our devotion. 

We didn’t talk, I didn’t mind. There’s a curious sensation of silence on a mountaintop. Human words interrupted by technology’s shriek have ceased. We’re enfolded within our footsteps kissing leaves, rock, and earth. We pause, and the earth teems with humming life around us. My lips part in enchantment as my breath joins the dance in smoky wisps. It was this company, this unity of the earth and time that baptized our futures into our pasts. It was a calm hand reassuring us to press on, and reminding us of our shared past, propelling our futures.

Into the Woods

by

46.192695,
  -91.867440
Into the Woods

We’d pack the car after my dad returned from work – a family of weekend warriors headed north. The three hour drive was punctuated by several notable landmarks: the state prison, the outlet mall, the hamburger place, the life-size lawn chair, fireworks, suicidal deer and – finally – the cabin.

I could never describe how to get there in great detail. Take County Road T until you hear the whispering pines and smell the chilli cheese dip. Something like that.

When you’re just a kid, it’s hard to fully appreciate the things you have. Now that I’m older, I’ve come to the conclusion that it was rather extraordinary for five families to meet at a cabin in the woods and dress up like pirates. Every summer. Every month. For the first eighteen years.

Shared spaces are sacred places that take on a life of their own. The collection of VHS tapes slowly evolves from Disney classics into an eclectic assortment of low budget horror films. Before you know it, the board game shelf is home to three variations of Monopoly and no dice. The lakeshore becomes buried beneath inflatable remains. A popped waterslide here, a washed out fun-noodle there. Nothing is ever in its right place and everything is at the same time.

You eventually learn that there is no perfect television-viewing angle. Your head will be awkwardly kinked while watching The Creature From The Black Lagoon. But a storm will roll in and the power will cease to exist. In its absence, we play a game called mosquito, a more thrilling and spooky derivative of traditional hide and seek. Don’t get bit.

No wall is left uncovered. The stuffed fish head is a reminder of that one time I went fishing and didn’t catch a goldfish. The dreamcatcher sits patiently waiting to collect dreams. The bulletin board predates Instagram, but its pushpin news feed is alive and well. Forever a place in progress.

Here, there are no rules. But if it’s yellow, you’re supposed to let it mellow. And don’t even think about cutting the cabin bars with a spoon.

You wouldn’t guess that this safe haven for knickknacks and hand-me-downs is also a harbor for the soul. A three hour drive, the night sky, and that fresh cabin water is all it takes. Out of the city and into the woods. These trees are magic and their spirits are high.

Sitting on Suitcases

by

52.524368,
  13.390639
Sitting on Suitcases

“Enschuldigung?”

I stared blankly.

“Hallo! Sprechen Sie Deutsch?”

When her question only intensified the blankness of the staring, she started again.

“You speak German?” she chirped hopefully.

Though it’d be hard to believe at this point, I answered—“Ja! So ein bisschen.” Yes. A little.

“Ein…bisschen?” she echoed. Hopefulness begat confusion begat disappointment begat disgust. Disapproval is the universal language, music and love be damned. She was an instructor at the institute, and until 30 seconds ago she was under the impression that her prospective students could speak German. Glad I could clear things up.

 

48 hours ago, I had never left US Central Standard time. My phone’s internal clock had gone on perpetually unconfused. I’d never been on an airplane. I’d never seen the ocean.

Now, I sat on a suitcase outside of a train station, a changed man. A 60-seat puddle jumper, a cloudy view of the Canadian coast and a “Searching for signal” notification told me so. I had managed to not lose my luggage. I had avoided the shady fake taxis at the airport. I had not fallen from the plane to my death. I was now a weary world-traveler. A stranger in a strange land, ready to drink in new experiences and season them with the salt of the Earth. Ready to handle anything.

Anything except speaking or understanding the language, apparently. I followed the woman inside. She took my coat and my confidence.

 

As luck would have it, I was the first of 50 students to arrive. My prize was small-talk. I could not exchange it for cash value.

We conversed, in half-mangled German.

“Where are you from?”

“Wisconsin.” I had resolved to speak in only proper nouns, so far so good.

“Wisconsin?” As I desperately tried to figure out how to say ‘between California and New York,’ she followed up: “That 70’s Show!”

She was more right than she knew. “Yes.” I said. “That 70’s Show.” A cultural gulf crossed, we resigned to sit in silence.

My colleagues leaked in, one-by-one. The rich kids spoke no German, and came in cabs or private cars. The poor kids crawled off trains, and spoke fluently. I sat on my suitcase, keeping the center of the Venn diagram warm, thinking about Laura Prepon.

 

I washed-up, ready for my first night abroad. Handball was on TV. The apartment had four flights of stairs and leaky windows, but at least there wasn’t any hot water. A knock on my door.

“If you need anything, let me know!” my roommate was a friendly and accommodating mid-40’s engineer, currently addressing me in briefs that would embarrass a bachelorette party. Since I didn’t know how to say “I need to see less of your thighs” in German, I just thanked him and went to bed.

I lay there, grumbling. No internet. Thousands of miles from home. Completely out of place.

Why am I here?

I smiled my first smile of the day before I nodded off.

“Why indeed?”

Bye and Bye

by

45.523452,
  -122.676207
Bye and Bye

There’s a place in the world that my heart took as home long before I ever considered calling it that. In a window seat, on the right kind of day, a certain few mountains reach up and out of clouds to beckon you nearer an oasis of earth and hip.

It with its verve and its vivid charms. Boys baking bread in vintage denim. Campfire as a purchasable scent. A collective hum and jangle of loosely-strung guitars, colliding coffee cups, popped tops on tall cans of beer. I came and went for years. Always attaching a bit more of myself to the town. Always taking a bit of it with me when I’d go. By car I’d carve my way through a thatch of pine needles and pudding-thick fog. Sometimes tire chains would tick in rapid succession over icy roads under almost-clear skies. And other times, still, the sun would shine, calling into question its dreary reputation.

It was a hopeful destination in any kind of weather. Infallible and full of promise.

And then one day a certain person came back to me. Hurtled back into my life in a fit of text messages riddled with innuendo and curiosity, phone calls about bicycle-ridden burrito hunts, perfect photographs of baked goods. “Come back,” he said, “and we’ll do that thing we never got to do.”

But as quickly as the thing was realized, the magic got lost.

So now that place will always ring like loss to me. Loss and thievery. That place over there with its curtain of rain bludgeoning what would effectively become our first and last real walk as “us.” And I, in those shoes with the holes in the soles. The weather out there has no mercy for poorly thought out footwear.

Unable to blink the torrent from my eyes, I followed him near-blindly past blue and yellow houses. Neon porches. Rock walls. Family gardens–organic or otherwise. Cats that bit and cats that purred. As we grew wetter, the rubber of my soles whinnied in empathy.

It never occurred to me to detest the grey of the day. It never once crossed my mind that this almost-frigid town, with its unyielding downpour, was anything less than paradise. Because of his warm hand? And the depth of his vocabulary? And their mutual proclivity for flannel and dark denim? Of course. Those things can blast sunlight onto any drear.

The eventual memory of poor timing and cruel distance get remedied in a certain way.
My nose and fingers and teeth, and the eyes of my heart recall the chilly mist and the way we became an absolute part–an extension of our surroundings. He, smelling thickly of pine like the walls of branches to my right and his left and I impossibly equating the weather to the doom of our four-day union. This place would be our sanctuary and our sepulcher–frozen where it stands and unable to be revisited.

After the 158

by

40.734706,
  -74.164750
After the 158

Summer is unforgiving. The heat is a relentless foe. Bright and beaming white-hot death rays of sunlight slice through dense and sticky air. I prefer this type of weather. At least there is a nice breeze playing off the river in the distance keeping the humidity at a bearable level. My thighs are sticking to the bus stop bench, the thin summer dress soaked and sticky from sweat on my ribs and breasts. I think about how my tattoo ink is altering chemically under the laser power of the UV rays. The heat is making me languid and sleepy, but my stir-crazy yearning to see you shakes me from my summer coma. I am alert once more, waiting impatiently.

Once the bus arrives, I seemingly glide on board, welcomed by the dim and cool interior. I hug my belongings to my side. I traveled light, knowing full well I’d want long, uninterrupted embraces from you upon arrival. I hand an obscene amount of money to the driver, who caps the exchange by handing me the transfer pass. The afternoon crew of motley travelers is lighter now than it would have been during the morning commutes. A seat is open next to the window, and I slip in quickly, though quietly. My heart jumps—I get the best view of you from here.

My thighs welcome the cool, scratchy fabric on the seat. First, I sort out my things and lay them neatly in my lap. After this, my eyelids lower slightly and I rest my head on the window, stealing glances at you. To say the least, I am enthralled, robbed of breath, chest heaving under the pressure of your captivating hold. Time drags on, its slow pace no match for my fluttering and quickened pulse. Even still, I wait with baited breath. The anticipation building up in me is almost orgasmic.

After half an hour, we are together. A creature of beauty, splattered in a thousand colors and smelling of expensive perfume, hot metal, and scorched street food. Your mouth opens and a storm of noise pours out, indiscernible to most but a crystal clear song to my ears. A cough erupts from your maw, noxious and gray, but I don’t mind. I am home, with you, hopelessly waxing poetic about your every feature until I draw my last breath.

You are pure poetry, the salt of heartache and the stuff of valor and the truest testament to faith, hustle, and commitment. The tumultuous peaks and valleys of fading youth were marked by your fleeting, though gripping, presence. Your name and convictions are stitched into the fabric of my being, this ragtag spirit bursting at the seams in a joyful mourning for you, for us, cursing yet praising the brief and scalding reunion every damn time. With you, I am so safe and comfortable. With you, I know the meaning and taste of home.

I carry you in my hips, hellos, and heart. For eternity, my love.

Top of World

by

45.536862,
  -94.186085
Top of World

Top of World. Bottoms up.

It would burn on the way down.
And the bottle, passing from hand-to-hand, would be ice cold.

Our parents locked the liquor cabinet, so we grew up on freezer vodka.

We made our claim to this spot, Top of World. Right next to one of those giant radio towers, the red blinking kind. Beyond the cemetery. Just past the small control building, the one covered in graffiti since we could remember. Defaced with those spray-can promises. Profound philosophical revelations littered with expletives and credited appropriately.

“It’s a big fucking world.” — Somebody

Beneath this sage wisdom, in the dead grass beneath, were small shrines to the place—little sacrifices to the gods of bygone innocence: empty bottles, cigarette butts, discarded egg cartons.

Nobody knew how we found the place, originally. It seemed like we had always been going there.

We called it Top of World because from there we could see it all and no one could see us. Like a two-way mirror.

Like the stars were a focus group and each new car that passed on the street below was the subject of an interrogation.

Like we were in control. We could see it all and no one could see us.

The strip mall. The water towers. The distant, blurred figure of the paper mill.

It was usually late when we’d sneak up through the neighborhoods and climb the hill: laughing, shh-ing, running.

Sometimes two of us, other times five, six, eight. The location of this place was a secret one didn’t divulge lightly. Top of World was a Coca-Cola recipe, a Threat Level Red classified piece of intel. Those who did know were part of an esoteric order. The Royal Society of Hush-Hush Degenerates.

We’d sit at the edge of the hill, looking out at the city lit up below.

We’d pass the bottle like a talking piece.

“I swear I can see the movie theatre from here.”

“What did you get on that math test last week?”

“Man, someday I’m going to make it big.”

“To getting out of here.”

“Cheers.”

Other times we’d bring dates up there. A blanket and a sky full of stars were sure to impress.

It wasn’t love, but it was something.

When things got rough, stressful, we’d go up there. To get away. To think and clear our heads. To escape.

Every night, eventually, the stars would disappear. The sky would lighten and the sun would threaten to expose us.

We’d make the long trek back down from the top. Back from the clouds. Back to Earth. Back to real life.

Since those days we’ve moved away, we got out of there. Before we left we passed the secret on to a new generation.

I still know the way, if I ever need to go back.

Francestown

by

43.387225,
  -87.875644
Francestown

There is no way to explain my upbringing without first mentioning the neighborhood where I was raised; the one where my parents still reside today. For some, neighbors are merely those living in proximity of our residence, strictly a civic association, curtailed by an affable wave while retrieving the daily mail. I truly cannot imagine what that’s like, and I know I am lucky to be able to say so. Our neighborhood – which we, the children, affectionately deemed Francestown – was one of a kind, and the type of environment that Lifetime movies portray.

Inducted at birth, this kinship of kids had been going strong several years prior to my existence, thanks to my older sisters and a slew of other founding fathers. The families simply belonged to each other. Perfectly acceptable, we’d roam into each others’ homes without knocking and help ourselves to a glass of water: the truest test of welcome. It would take exactly one of us to begin the daily activities by ringing each doorbell on the block, often before 8am on summer days and weekend mornings. If you hadn’t yet eaten breakfast at the time of this call, it was simply too bad; unwise. We played all together, and we played all day – the lot of 20 of us, in our prime. And every night, without fail, we would hide behind parked cars at the slightest sign of a summoning mother. Dire measures were taken at all costs to evade the parents, prematurely forced to call it a day.

Nearly every discernible place holds a memory. The Maple that served as my first climb, since victimized by the Emerald Ash Borer. The pavement where my sister allowed a fellow founding father to tricycle over her leg in a bout of Speed Bumps – and for obvious reasons, never had the chance to take her turn. The curbside that nearly brought our 3-car wagon train to an early grave, surely due to the implementation of jumprope ‘seatbelts’ to keep us ‘safe’. The hill where we married two Francestonians the ripe age of 4. It was a sense of belonging yet to reoccur at any later point in my life. We found it second nature to be together at all times – so much, that our parents regularly planned outings to haunted houses and amusement parks, year after year. After all, that’s what family is all about.

But things change. People change, and so do their feelings. Friendships that have spanned double decades can suddenly turn brittle with miscommunication and misunderstanding. Things aren’t what they used to be anymore, but truthfully, that only sweetens each memory. I would give nearly anything to go back and play like we did, just for one day. I will always think fondly on what were undoubtedly the most impressionable years of my life, and give it all of the good credit it deserves.

Sincerely, A Proud Product of Francestown.

In The Sky

by

-1.283333,
  29.916667
In The Sky

In this corner of the globe, mechanical time holds little value. You don’t meet at 7pm so much as “after sundown”. Day in and day out, the equatorial sun provides the most consistent guidance; clocks tick to the beat of no man. You can charge electronics but only within the small window of time while the generator is running. Here, things tend to just happen.

Awash with mysticism, this “place of many little birds” is nestled between 29 fertile mountain tops. Their void is filled with fresh, cool water. I trace the steep lines and visualize the depths of what is rumored to be the second deepest lake in Africa. There are a lot of rumors here – rumors that have a way of becoming reality. I suppose it is as valid a way of recording the world as any.

 On “Punishment Island”, unwed mothers would be sent to starve or die trying to escape. I couldn’t help but believe I could find a way if it were me. Perhaps abandonment has a way of shaking the will to live. I wonder what these women must have felt; their only chance of survival that a man could come to rescue her and make her his wife. I wonder if a lifetime of learned helplessness makes it easier to die.

I watch as the villagers work together in a literal hoe-down. They come together to produce the food they need to sustain themselves. I wonder if food tastes better when you know what it took to create it. There is something peaceful about the straightforwardness of it all. They don’t work in boxes. They don’t exchange arbitrary numbers for goods manufactured by people they’ve never met. They don’t follow a dream they’ve been taught to chase. Their inputs seem to correspond to their outputs more directly.

The four of us spent a weekend here but it could have been a lifetime. We spent the entirety of day two rowing a hollowed out tree atop the sun soaked tarn. As the splashes softened to a rhythmic pace, time condensed and I caught a glimpse of the infinite; my meditative trance broken only by storm clouds racing our way. But these clouds were unlike like normal earth clouds. Here, they graced us with their presence and passed over and through us. We were in the sky.