Lullaby For Grown-Ups

March 28, 2012

Go to sleep
with closed eyes
your prophecies
won’t be fulfilled tonight

when you think
of falling skies
remember there are a million ways to die

don’t be afraid
don’t wear your inside out
to keep you warm

so rest your head
it’s just as well
you can’t keep the sky from falling

By the amazing Ane Brun.

Scenic View Ahead

March 17, 2012

Nighttime is the time for work; daytime is the time for rest.

We pull the van around in a circle at the vista and exit to stretch our legs as the sun creeps heatedly behind the opposing peaks. The battered rails that stand drunkenly at the edge of the precipice bear the marks of our muddy boots from evenings just like this one. His face is lit momentarily as he draws on his cigarette, the bud blossoming into a bright orange before simmering back to a gentle glow. He throws the still-smoking butt into the weeds at the edge of the gravel where it sputters then falls inert, indistinguishable from the rest. His eyes meet mine and I nod. The last wavering layers of sun fall behind the haze of heat and cloud to drop the valley into twilight.

Our boots crunch to the van and I run my hand over the imaging rig we checked and rechecked earlier. I run my fingers over bolts and screws out of habit. I step up into the driver’s seat and shut the door as he scrambles in from the other side. He takes the flashlight from the dash and flicks it on, shining it rapidly over the wires that lie coiled on the floor before he moves awkwardly into the back. His dark eyes meet mine as he goes by and I start the engine. The gravel crackles under the weight of our tires as we roll out to the road. I turn down the brightness of the dashboard, and make sure the safety headlights are off by flipping them on and off once. I idle for a moment, listening to the familiar whir of the laptop booting up and his preparatory rustling  and muttering. When I hear him settle down in the mess of electronics I pull slowly out into the narrow road and turn downhill.

I hear his fingers flying over the keyboard in the back. The sky darkens by the second, deep yellows and reds already fading into a dark navy, edging into blackness, limned with colours that don’t seem real in that spectrum. The trees fly by as I pick up speed, black silhouettes and shadows against the backdrop of pale pinks stretching out into the deepening of black. At this moment, my control of the van begins to fade away, the momentum of our downward vector beginning to take over. I grip the wheel and drag it back into my control for as long as possible. Stray branches and leaves slap against the metal sides of our vehicle as we hammer down the strip of road and the sound of whipping leaves flying by fill my ears when I hear the first click-beep-whine of the imaging rig going off.

I hear him clicking away excitedly in back as the whine pitches up into the supersonic range, the sensation seared into my ear-drums to remain there for the rest of the evening as a phantom voice. I risk a glance in back to see the side of his face, his grim concentration lit from beneath by the laptop screens. I return my attention to the road and we are in total free-fall now, my feet off the gas, and holding steady over the brakes. We barrel down the road, the trees raising up to create a dark canopy overhead, the emerging stars flickering like a zoetrope through the racing leaves. My boot eases down on the brake, trying to bridle our tumble down the mountain, my arms working savagely at the wheel which tries to wrench out of my grasp at each curve in the road. We judder and crash over a bump in the road and my body shudders through a jarring landing. Click-beep-whine.

My foot pumps at the brake but now it isn’t enough. We fall and fall, tumbling into the valley and I hope we don’t end up a mangled wreck in the trees. He is muttering excitedly in back but I can’t make out the words over the scream of air and creaking of physical stress tearing at the van. I feel the wheels leave the road and we seem to hover indefinitely in the air, in silence, before slamming back to earth. I lean my head back in my seat and when we reach the base of the valley I press down on the brakes slowly, taking us down to a manageable speed before turning to cross the bridge to the other side.

I flip on the headlights as we approach the perimeter of the town, lighting up the lonely stop sign. We roll through the deserted main street. He clambers back into the front seat next to me and gives me a thumbs-up and we drive up to the observatory to park. I get out and stretch again in the parking lot, sighing wearily. I ask him if he got some good pictures and he nods. I wonder if the others are doing their parts right now. I go inside and fall onto one of the couches for tourists. I fall asleep listening to the faint droning of the informative film looping on the giant screen that never gets turned off.

I wake up to him shaking my shoulders. The building opens to the public soon because old people and tourists love the morning. I wipe my hand over the greasy mark my hair left on the black leather couch, smelling my fingers afterwards, smelling the bitter treated, leather amidst my own strong scent. I head outside onto the balcony, moving through empty tables with inverted seats perched atop. The morning wind blows coldly through the valley ruffling my hair and I see him leaning out over the side next to a big metal pay-binocular. He looks down into the valley with his own pair of binoculars, at the ledge of rock on the other side that we had passed in our nighttime drive. He is nodding to himself and he passes me the binoculars, saying, “Both. Good.”

He seats himself on the concrete rail and amuses himself by repeatedly swivelling the coin-op. I put his binoculars to my eyes and adjust the focus. The yellow blur of the early morning sun on rock drifts into clarity. Across the valley, on the rusted metal springs of a decayed bed-frame, are two men. Naked and bloodied, their bodies glint wetly in the sun, dark red and splotchy with bruises and damage. Some of their limbs have been severed or torn off. Their arms and legs are caught and wound into the coils of stiff metal wire. One of them is moving, his mouth open, screaming, probably. His raw, flayed flesh drags against sharp tetanus metal and he flinches, mouth open like a black gash. The other does not react. My breathing quickens and my skin goes hot as I observe them.

I dial the focus a bit further and beyond them I can see the one from two nights ago. He has managed to disentangle his arms from the metal trap, and he lies half in the dirt and shattered glass, possibly dead. His skin is seared and burnt from the day in the sun, his wounds puffed up, raw, and seeping. If he is not yet dead, he will not make it through another day in the sun.

I sit up and pass his binoculars back. I look at him. He looks back, his black eyes expressionless. He shrugs and dangles them over his neck then walks away.

Ski Death Parade

March 10, 2012

A professional skier died today in Switzerland. It was in the news. “Severe neurotrauma” was the pronounced cause of death.

While I was in the hospital this winter, another professional skier died in Utah. She died of serious head injuries and subsequent cardiac arrest.

My heart is from a guy who died while skiing over the holidays in British Columbia. He died instantly from head trauma.

Just sayin’.

Sometimes when you drive out into the Great Plains, you are overwhelmed by the flatness stretching interminably in every direction. Tufted remnants of crops gasp at the sky, struggling into the air from the cracked earth, drowned in stretches of wind-strewn snow. The sun perches high in a barren, brilliantly bright blue sky, throwing it’s pallid light resentfully at the earth. Any warmth is stretched out and dispersed in an atmosphere miles above, yet the air is dry and empty. The bitterness of the cold leaches all moisture out into the struggling crystals of snow lying dead and dying on the dirt. Lips stiffen and crack with each shivering inhalation.  Gazing out onto this expanse, it seems to lie almost on the brink of existence, choking in the pale sunlight. It blurs out like an image of distant space, of places so unimaginably far away that the eyes struggle to hold it and force it into reality.

Mirages reflect the pale sky on the horizon, glittering on the broken, untended asphalt, perpetually beyond reach. The occasional distant dark blur appears, leaping out of that mirror-world to roar suddenly by, passing in an instant with a growl of tires on pavement. Faces in windows focus on their own illusions gleaming so enticingly in the distance.

I stare straight ahead. I keep my hands on the wheel. I wonder.

I wonder what it is out here that scares me so much. Here where there is space to be free. To stretch out ones arms and reach, reaching as far as one can, in every direction, and still not touch another person. I should be thrilled by the idea. Because I fear people. I fear the ease with which I am damaged. At how much I crave interaction, but do not know how to welcome it on it’s own terms. I am a child, full of pride and righteousness, placing myself high on a pedestal for all to marvel. For an audience of no one except my doppelganger applauding at the base, sneering up at my vain display.

The snow glitters coldly in the waning sunlight, and when I take a deep breath, it feels like the most pristine breath a man has taken since the dawn of time. The coldest, freshest, cleanest inhalation in the universe spills into my lungs and shocks my core. The dome of the world stretches out above in the palest gradations of blues. My shadow stretches out over the earth in a long, skinny black line, the edges sharply pronounced.

Solitude. Myself and my shadow. Yet I cannot live in that place. It is my only bastion against harm, but I must be harmed. Because I can’t stand myself. All that pain is my own shadowboxing willingly concealed in the actions of others.

The dreaded realisation sinks in. That I inflict pain on myself because no one else will. No one else is paying attention.

What do I do when no one is watching?