Friday, October 16, 2009

Midnight Spurring

So here I am once again with close friends in a darkened theater. We are about to see the late night viewing of yet another movie that I know will make me cry, if for no other reason than the fact that we could have seen it together. The door opens, paving a long, bright path on the floor. A tall shadow stretches down the length of this aisle of light, and in saunters the black urban cowboy. He sits just a few seats down the row from me and my posse of support, sparking glances of surprise, whispers of amazement. 'How many times have we seen that guy at this theater, and how weird is it that he always seems to pick the same movie, the same showing, even the same row of seats that we do? Weird, isn't it?' After a few moments of quiet discussion about who he might be, and debate over the odds of us seeing him again next weekend, we settle in to watch the movie. Credits pop and fade, thematic music cues, the leading lady appears, and my mind wanders back to the tall dark man at the end of our row. I lean back far into my seat and turn my head gradually until I am looking at the cowboy. He seems unaware that he is the subject of intense study, so I take my time, scanning his frame and face as best I can in the flickering darkness. His face is a weathered story line, the furrows and crows-feet of life experience marking each chapter. He is dressed in dark pants and a dark buttoned shirt, bolo tie with a lump of turquoise cinched up to his neck. I can't see them in the dark, but memory paints a mental image of his cowboy boots, with their black leather shining, chains dangling, and...golden spurs.

Spurs. Who wears spurs to a movie theater? More to the point, who wears golden spurs to a movie theater in New Hampshire? The cowboy shuffles his feet and the spurs jingle, presenting their own question in response to my silent query; why don't you ask?

I ignore the...spurring, and dismiss the suggestion that I approach a stranger in a dark theater during a movie to ask him why he is wearing spurs as ludicrous. I continue to watch him, and begin to wonder why he is here, and who he is. Did he know we would be here, and if so, how? Is he stalking me? Wouldn't that just be my luck, to have someone obsess about me, only to discover them to be a leathery cowboy. I play the scene out in my head; it is past midnight at the police station, and I am covered in blood, the trunk of my demolished car full of body parts. A single light bulb flickers overhead as I sit handcuffed to a chair, quivering before two detectives. "That's right, six-five, African-American, dressed in black, with a turquoise bolo tie, and golden spurs. He follows me to the movies every weekend for the late night showing, and sits in the same row. He killed them all! Why don't you believe me?"

Back to reality, I move on to a more reasonable scenario; could he be someone from my past that I offended or ignored? Returning to my life by chance, he is watching me, assessing the danger before approaching. I actually doubt that I have ever mattered to anyone that much, at least to anyone outside of the list of faces that I would recognize at first glance, and it seems impossible that I would fail to recognize such an odd figure. The possibility of past transgression dismissed, I review the personalities of those close to me, searching for one that would be patient enough to stretch a practical joke over several weeks. It would take some serious planning to pull this off, wouldn't it? No one that I know seems capable of such diligent coordination, but isn't that disbelief a critical element of the practical joke? Tired of speculation and drawn to the screen by the thunder of roller skates on screen, I dismiss the possibility that he is here on purpose, and declare myself to be the paranoid victim of my own imagination.

As planned, the movie pulls my mind away from the worries of family, the grief over your death, the woes of work, and the fear of the black cowboy at the end of the row. Moments later, clarity, as it often does when I am least expecting it to, pulls up alongside me and strikes me hard across the face;

Jared, have you returned to Earth as a lanky, misplaced cowboy? I ask not because I am a believer in reincarnation, but because it is impossible to trust my feelings right now, which hint that you may be back and trying to tell me something. If you have indeed returned to visit me, you didn't pick the most inconspicuous of vessels, did you? A six-and-a-half foot black cowboy wearing boots, bolo, and golden spurs tends to stand out a bit in southern New Hampshire. My first question, while it should lean more towards your purpose in returning is instead, were you given a choice? Did they present you with a catalog of personas available for possession, and you flipped to the last very last page, the discount and refurb section, where odds and ends are offered "as is", without instructions or guarantee? Perhaps, but I like to imagine that they lined up ten possibilities; the first nine being tall handsome men with smiling plastic faces, perky pectorals, and come-run-your-fingers-through-me hair, while the tenth man was a gangly, leather-skinned, time-ridden, black urban cowboy. He was every fat girl with coke-bottle glasses and an asthma attack that was never picked for dodgeball. To the surprise of all who watched, you chose this oddity as your method of manifestation. You picked him because that is what you always do; you make the alone less lonely, the weird seem normal, and the rejected feel welcome. Clarity striking me once more, this time more forcefully, is that the message you are trying to convey, that I should take up your cause?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What the Tuck?

I miss things that we never even did together. The other night in my dreams I tucked him in, pulling the blankets up to his neck as his legs wiggled in that way your legs will do when you find yourself between clean, crisp linen on a cold night. He closed his eyes and smiled in his ever-loving way, shrugging his shoulders up into a snuggle before relaxing under the warm, soft weight of his rainbow blanket. I leaned over him, drawing my face close to his, stopping just shy of his cheek to whisper, "I love you Jared, forever." I breathed in deep, then kissed him on the cheek, and he was warm, and he was soft, and most of all he was real. His cheek was as soft, alive, and reachable as the three cheeks I had kissed earlier that night while tucking in my own children.

I don't recall ever tucking him in before, so why would I give any number of things in trade to do so just once for real?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Gravity Without Pull

In rare moments, I am able to still both my body and my mind enough to imagine Jared sitting with me. It is more than a cozy feeling, a spiritual sensation, or my hazy imagination; no, he is right there next to me, smiling, talking, laughing, smoking a cigarette. I can see him, I can smell him, I can hear him, and my skin buzzes with that magnetic feeling from someone sitting close but not quite touching you. When I am with Jared I am able to leave the urgency of this world behind and take a peek at forever. It takes great effort; I am emotionally drained and physically shaken by the time the spell is broken, typically by a child rushing in with a tattle to tale, or a phone ringing in another room. This is the toughest time, I am like a junkie coming down from the high he knows he shouldn't have been on; I am mournful, beaten-down, and guilty, but I know that I will do it again, as soon as I am alone and still enough. For now the lows are worth the highs. I do however fear that one day his edges will blur, his features fade, his smells dissipate, and his sounds dampen. What will I do then?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

"My Own Heavenly Daze"

The light wasn’t so bright after all. I could see quite well, without squinting. There was no tunnel, no overhead view as nurses and doctors rushed about, pounding on my chest and shouting for crash carts and big needles. I just left it behind, looking forward to whatever the next moment held in store. So now, here, in whatever this place is, I don’t hear choirs of angels, there aren’t any clouds, and I have yet to see a pearly set of gates. No crowds of ancestors to greet me, no voice from the sky calling my name, no bearded man in robes appearing in a puff of smoke to interview me, direct me to a shining escalator, or fit me for a harp. Instead, I am alone, surrounded by a quiet peace, tall mountains, green meadows, colorful flowers, and a soft, warm breeze. The sun is high in the sky, but it’s not hot. The day is mild, and I am comfortable, not sweating and wishing for a shower. I feel young, strong, and renewed. I look down at my hands; they are wrinkle-free, and as I flex them I feel no pain. I am barefoot, and let out a chuckle as I wiggle my toes in the warm grass. I scan the horizon, and off in the distance see a stretch of beach, just beyond the mouth of this, my private valley. The white surf rushing onto the sand sets my feet in motion; it beckons me to come down and relive some happy memories. I walk for several minutes, puzzled that I am still alone, but content in the fact that I am not up to my neck in fire and brimstone, or lounging in perfect boredom on a cloud. I pass through a grove of trees and out onto the deserted beach, the sounds of the sea reminding me of so many great moments in time.

I step forward into the surf, just enough to wet my feet up to the ankles. The water is cool and refreshing, and I want to swim in it. I pull off my shirt and toss it behind me into the wind, carefree and smiling as I run forward into the waves. I dive into a breaker, thrilling as it rushes over my back, burying me in a comfortable pile of water. I swim through it and pop up on the other side, then duck my head immediately into the next one. After a few minutes of fun that I have not had in years, I am eager to experience something else that I have missed for some time, and turn around to head back onto the sand for a nice warm lay down. I dive with the next wave, riding on its back until it can carry me no further, and my knees dig into the sand. I stand, and looking up see that I am no longer alone. There is a man off in the distance, walking towards me, having just emerged from the grove of trees that I myself passed through just a few minutes ago. I trudge my way up to dry sand, grab my shirt, and pull it over my head, wondering who it is that has been sent to welcome me into this happy place. I start walking towards him, reviewing the short list of men that I often imagined waiting for me with outstretched arms as I passed over to this other side. Suddenly I am running, unable to contain my excitement at the realization of who it must be. I cross the distance at a clip, my legs feeling young and full of strength. He is closer now; his skinny frame, perfect hair, and handsome, happy smile are unmistakable. I approach at a near sprint, tears in my eyes and my own laughter sounding in my ears as I leap the final few feet into his open arms, knocking him back but not down. He is strong, he is well, he is real, and he is here with me. I bury my face in his neck, weeping for joy, taking in this moment so long in coming. I breath in his scent, marvel at his arms around me, and for a few long moments I won’t let go, afraid that he will slip away again. At last I push him back, hold him at arm’s length, and look into his eyes. They are bright, joyous, and full of love.

“I have missed you Jared...” My voice is half a whisper, as if to speak out loud would wake me from this dream.

But it isn’t a dream; he smiles, looks shy and away for a moment, and then he laughs that guilty laugh and blurts, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m so, so sorry!”

And I laugh too, because I know now that I am in heaven.