The Need You Know

May 18, 2012

I drove back into downtown late last night and the stench of drying sweat filled the air. The first hot days of summer had infused the air with a warm thickness.

Drives serves as mental downtime for me. I switch into autopilot, turn up the music, and my mind begins free-associating all the concepts that have been tumbling around in there for the last little while.

My life lies at a crossroads, and choosing a direction now may be one of the longest-lasting decisions I’ve had to make. As the last remnants of medical frenzy slough away from my flesh, I emerge, pink and frail. My eyes gaze up into the sky, and my weak hands grasp towards it, but they cannot yet reach.

There is an interim, a time of social obligation, where I must return to the world that which it did for me. Everybody put their effort into keeping this corpus alive and walking, and now, I must show them that this was not in vain. That I can live freely and independently. That I can step up.

But what am I going to do? And where am I going to do it? I do not yet know.

The Flood

May 11, 2012

People are shouting and screaming, but everything is a muffled blur of sound. My ears are ravaged by the explosives and blaring music. My heart pounds heavily in my chest and I wonder how I managed to stay on my feet for the whole show.  The crowd is carried out of the simmering ruins of the arena, the stage gushing it’s last remnants of steam and fire into the washed-out, smokey air. The last shreds of flashing confetti twirl lazily in suspension above us as we crush out into the atrium.

I find Karen and we spill out into the street, into the first heavy-laden drops of rain. The sky is black with cloud. The day’s heat has been leached from the air and it is progressing into a cool night. A crackle of purple lightning darts across the horizon, flashing brightly. The thunder hits me in a solid wave of sound. The ringing in my ears crescendos into a roaring surge then dies down again. I feel swaddled by noise. We hurry through the throng and someone approaches me, shouting indistinctly. I cup my ear and he holds up his tie, pointing at my own black-and-fuchsia-checked one.

“That’s the way to go!” he shouts again.

I laugh and say something back and we head our separate ways. We rush across the street and I pull on my jacket. The temperature plummets as the rain picks up. By the time we reach the car, the rain is coming down heavily.

We scramble into the seats hurriedly, the rain drumming staccato on the windshield, the streetlights reflected in every droplet, like each one is a pixel in a screen. Hair wet, breath rasping, clothes smelling damp and sweaty.

I start the car and we roll out into the night.

I’ve been sick the last few days, horribly sick. My body is in excruciating pain. It wakes me up hourly, and I don’t know how to fix it. I hope that, like all things, this too shall pass.

My constant interruption from sleep has highlighted a recurring dream I’ve had for the past several weeks, although I did not realize it until now, attempting to recollect the details. Dreams consistently slip through my fingers even as I grasp at them. This time, however, the pain pushes me.

I am with my father at the house where I grew up in. We stroll together across the gravel driveway and cross the street to our neighbours yard. On it are several low shelves full of books, records, papers, toys, and other paraphernalia. They are covered in dry leaves and dust, having sat out in the elements for many years. I crouch down and begin to go through them, looking at the old LPs, everything from the 30s, 40s, and 50s, checking to see if there is anything nice there. My father does the same, but merely looks at them wistfully.

I ask him, “Why are these out here?”

He replies, “He died a long time ago.” Meaning the old man who used to live here. The memory of this man fades into my days of pre-cognition, but I remember him as being a gardener and very old.

I stop rummaging and just look at everything laid out on the shelves before standing up and rubbing my hands on my jeans.

“Come on,” he says, and gets on his rickety old bike.

I get on mine and follow. We ride down a block and through an opening between two houses to find a road I had never known of before. We stop in front of a run-down house, overshadowed by huge trees, the blinds drawn in the daytime. We bring our bikes around to the back of the house and enter through the back door.

I step inside, and smell the mustiness, the age. There are boxes stacked up in corners, labelled with marker in my father’s spidery writing. The place is mostly a mess, but some rooms have been worked on. There is a deep shag rug around a wooden table in the living-room. Kneeling in it is reminiscent to kneeling in piles of leaves every autumn. He shows me the foyer, and a shelf set that he is especially proud of having repaired. It looks good.

My father had bought this house without my mother’s knowledge and has been spending his spare time fixing it up, and I ask him why.

“Well, for when we sell our house, this will help with the mortgage.”

It’s a vague answer but I nod slowly without asking more.

I go back outside and ride my bike around the block, and smile at the neighbour with her child. I quickly go back inside because I have the feeling they are curious about the house and the new neighbours, but they never see anyone actually living there. I step back into the foyer and there he is, working on another project. He is intent on his task and doesn’t look up. I wonder to myself how my mother doesn’t know about this other home. I wonder why my father needs this place of solitude. I wonder, I wonder.