The Sunset Part II

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The Sunset Part I

 

The sun had caught up with us. We landed at Flagstaff’s Pulliam Airport right after sunrise. My mind was heavy with thought. James and Scott were having a grand time around me, but I took no notice. They had consumed a lot of those tiny airplane bottle of booze. We grabbed a taxi and drove through town. Pine trees passed us by at an increasing rate. I looked out and saw the San Francisco Peaks, coincidentally enough. A calm came over me. It was a beautiful sight.

Those two guys were still cracking jokes and singing into the night, even though it had become morning. Our friendship doesn’t make sense, but it has lasted most of our lives. One shouldn’t question such things. That’s the way it is with most blessings.

The house was beautiful. I don’t know how they found the place or why they were even looking, but it was the coolest house I had ever seen. It was surrounded by a bit of land and looked right up to the San Francisco Peaks. There was a deck on the backside of the place.

Mt. Eldon was much closer and a lot smaller. It was more like a giant hill on the eastern side of Flagstaff. I silently took it all in. Sure, I had been to Yosemite and Redwood, but that has been many years. I had forgotten what God’s natural world looked like. It was amazing in the truest sense.

“So, what do you think?” Scott asked, nudging me.

“Its cool. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“I used to come up here when I was a kid. My mom loved coming here. She said it was the only place she could feel free. Whenever I get to return to this place, I always remember her.” The usually quiet James spoke quite emotionally and walked away.

Scott and I looked at each other for a bit, not wanting to be disrespectful to our friend’s feelings. We took some time to settle into the house. It was amazing. There were two stories, with four bedrooms upstairs; each with its own bathroom. It was like a hotel or something. It must have been designed to keep a large family happy and from killing each other. It was just my luck that I was here with two guys. I laughed at myself since I hadn’t had a romantic anything in years.

I told the guys I was heading out to the store. We needed some snacks and supplies for the place. James asked if I needed a car, as he reached into his pocket. I said no, I had noticed a store down the road not far away. It was a beautiful day out and I wanted to walk.

It wasn’t far before I reached the market. The sun was high in the sky, but it was cool out. I would need a sweater. That thought struck me as funny. My view of Arizona was cactus and the face of the sun. I was surrounded by trees and needing to put more clothes on. This was unexpected.

By the time I returned, Scott and James were on the deck having beers with the neighbors. I put the groceries away, grabbed a water and went to be social.
“Q, I’d like you to meet some friends. This is Laura and this Kathy.” I shook their hands and said hello. “I’ve known these two ladies since we were children.” James was back to his charming self.

“I’m terribly sorry.” Scott said with his smart ass smile.

“Oh, James is the best!” Kathy tried to defend my friend, who now wore the cheesiest smile.

“You don’t get out much, do you?” I blurted out before I could stop myself. My eyes were wide and I was embarrassed.

“Wow, you guys are a little sarcastic, aren’t you?” Laura chimed in, not amused.

James, working damaged control, saved the girls before we could really start. “Sorry, ladies, we can get kinda caustic when we get together.”

“Cheers!” We toasted ourselves as James rolled his eyes.

“Please excuse my friends, they find it entertaining to annoy the entire world.” We smirked and shrugged like idiots. We knew our lot in life and were content with it.

The five of us got the conversation rolling after that, before the ladies had to excuse themselves to carry on with their days. We spent the rest of the day out there just talking. It felt good to relax with these guys. I was beginning to feel like my old self.

“How long do you guys have out here?” I said.

“I have a few days to spend.” Scott said in reply.

“What about you, James?”

“I think I can stay through the weekend. What day is today?”

“Wednesday.”

“Yeah, I’ll have to take off Sunday sometime.”

“Q, you have this place for as long as you want. Please make yourself comfortable and move yourself in. The only other person with a key is Sissy, but she won’t come out here. So, the place is yours.”
“Thanks, but I don’t want to take advantage.”

“You’re not. I want you to take care of yourself. It would be cool if you could write something that didn’t make me want to kill myself.”

“Shut up. It’s not that bad.”

“It can be. I’m worried about you and I don’t like that.” I shrugged. I didn’t know what to say.

“Well, I don’t know how long I will stay, but thank you for everything.”

“How long have we known each other? You’re family at this point.”

“You still don’t have to do this.”

“I want to.”

“You sure none of the family will mind?”

“Dude, I’m the only one who’s been here in years. I don’t even know why we keep this place.”

I had nothing better going on in San Francisco. I might as well stay here and try to figure something out. The atmosphere seemed refreshing. Could I find a subject to write about here? I just needed to start writing about my life and see if something comes out of it. The physical act of writing could lead me into something great. I had to have faith in my abilities and hope for the future.

We spent the rest of the week being lazy. We drank out on the deck looking up at the mountains. When you live in the city, you can forget the beauty of the natural world. Cities can be interesting, but they cannot take your breath away. I loved the clean, crisp air of northern Arizona. The views were unbeatable.

Scott and James returned to San Francisco. They kept in contact via text. I tried to keep my head down and write. I settled in after the boys left. I made sure I woke up early to write. I stayed away from alcohol. I did my best to foster a positive environment for myself. I wanted to create a sustainable living situation. If I could find healthy habits here, I could take them back with me to California.

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The Sunset: Part I

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It was a quiet night. It seemed like they were all like that. Nights began to blend together into a grand depressing blur. I liked it that way. I felt a sense of security when it was dark and raining. I never listened to uplifting music.  I don’t even know what it would be if I did. It was always Dylan, Waits or someone equally as mellow. Happiness never really felt right and that, I believe, is why she left me.

I stepped out of the café with my usual black coffee, my breath rising into the air. San Francisco was a somber city. We complimented each other well. The bay looked frigid, still and heartless. I had missed her. I always found some sort of inspiration to write while sitting silently on her shores. I know I’m a pathetic soul. I have a bay as my muse. Some writers have gorgeous, sensual women; I only have a body of water. I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining. I’m grateful I have a muse at all.

The streets were empty at this late hour. The city and I were alone once again. It was freeing to walk the streets in solitude. I guess you could say it was the happiest moment I could hope for in a day. Does that sound a little sad? Maybe it does. But it was realistic.

I pulled my scarf tight and began the walk back to my place. I lived in the Sunset. It was a humble little place off Parnassus, just down the hill from UCSF. It was a good, quiet neighborhood.

My head was finally clear. It had been so long; I couldn’t remember the last time I could think straight. This was the first time in years my body was free of the strain of alcohol. After so much chaos, it felt comforting to have such a simple life. I felt drained of all the drama, yet I felt whole. It was as if the poison had run its course and left my body.

I walked slowly on these nights. I didn’t want these moments to end. I was drawn to the darkness of the city. San Francisco had a soul with many shadows. Those shadows protected me and comforted me. I thrived within the darkness.

I’m not actually the loner I sound like. I only wish I was. I have friends who refuse to leave me alone. Every so often they won’t even call; they just come over to my apartment. James and Scott were the worst. Those two always want to take me out to the clubs. They never listen to mean drug me out all the time. I don’t know when they expected me to write. This night was doomed to be the same as all the others once I heard the knock.

“What do you want?” I shouted back through the door.

“Open the door, Q”

That’s me. I’m Q. It’s a long story. Maybe I’ll tell you another time.

“James, I’m not going out tonight. I need to stay here and write.” I should never have come back to the apartment. I was safe at the coffee shop.

“Open the door, Q. We just want to have a drink with you.”

I knew this night would not be that simple. Complications always occurred with these two. Why the hell did I open the door? I’ll never know the answers to these questions.

“Hey man, good to see you.” Scott is so full of shit. I can see right through his innocence. He’s smooth, always trying to make you feel good before he presents his genius plan he just concocted. It’s painful, really. What is even more painful is that I’m weak and I always fall for it?

“Whatever.” I was still not going to trust them until they were gone. At least they offered me a beer when they came in. I mean, it’s the least they could do.
I was sure they were planning on ruining my night anyway.

“No thanks. I’m still not drinking.”

“Right.” Scott said in a slightly sarcastic tone.

“Man, its just one drink. How many times do we get to sit around and have a beer anymore?”

So we sat around and finished off the twelve-pack. There was small talk wrapped around the tension hanging in the room. I was waiting for their grand idea to spring forth like a jack-in-the-box. I knew them to be sly and cunning. If I was going to be prepared to counter their antics, why was I drinking?

The next thing I knew we were at the bar. I convinced myself it wasn’t a big deal. It was only a bar downstairs from the apartment. They had The Eagles playing on the juke box in the corner. It was actually rather nice. We had switched to some livelier music at this point in the night. James and Scott had found a way to get me to relax.

You might be thinking this is a good thing. You don’t know these guys. Nothing is ever this simple. They harass me until I give in or they get me drunk and I don’t know any better. The latter is far easier and more effective. The tension had long ago ceased to exist. The scotch was flowing freely and the laughter even more so.

“So we’re catching a plane tonight.”

The laughter abruptly ended. I could hear the needle scratching a record in my head. The silence was truly amazing. I don’t think I have heard such profound silence, before or since.

James had a huge grin spreading out on his face. Scott looked away as soon as James spoke. I kept looking back and forth at both their faces. I should have stayed at the coffee shop. It was quiet. I was alone. I should have tried to write there.

“Now, who do you think is taking a flight?” I asked, already knowing the answer. I hung my head waiting for their response.

“We are.” Scott said, still looking away, trying to both answer and avoid the question.

These two monkeys had killed all the joy we had established during the evening. The silence which had once lingered had returned in a hurry.

Scott turned back to fully face me. Somehow he had gathered himself and regained his composure.

“Q, you’re coming with us.”

“The hell I am.”

“You have nothing to do here. This place makes you miserable. When was the last time you took a vacation? All you do is sit in those damn cafes and read. If it’s a good night, you’ll write a few pages in one of your depressing stories. You’re coming with us.”

“Q, c’mon, you need to get away from here,” Scott said, trying to soften the impact. “Come have some fun with us.”

“Where are we going?” My wall was beginning to crumble and they knew it. They came around me, putting their hands on my shoulders. I really hate it when Scott and James get those goofy grins on their faces. The aggravation levels rise to monumental heights. They were aware of this as well. They knew getting touchy-feely with me would annoy the hell out of me.

“We’re going to take a trip to Arizona.” Scott said it slow and deliberately. I put my hand to my head, covering my eyes.

“Arizona? What the hell do I want to go out there for?”

“Seriously dude, please listen to us. You need to take some time and get out of this rut you’ve got yourself in.”

“We’re only trying to help you.”

I tried to sleep on the plane, but it was useless. My mood had not lifted. I was still very annoyed I had been duped so easily. I was mostly upset with myself. I knew I should never have had that drink with them. My sobriety had been coming along so well. About a month before I had taken a trip to the ER after vomiting up blood. The doctors firmly suggested I stop drinking.

That was the first time I had slipped up. At first, it was hard not to drink. Drinking had become such a central part of all my activities. I viewed myself as a social drinker. I simply had a lot of friends.

I sat staring out the tiny airplane window into the nothingness of the night. At that point, I didn’t realize how helpful this flight would be to my life. That getting out of California would change my life forever.

The Unmentioned

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“Don’t you understand? That’s why I’ve been so deep into all these stories for so long. The more I read, the less I have to deal with my own life. The more I write the less I have to deal with my own life. I can create these worlds to dilute the reality I’m running away from. Everyone has been so afraid of my addiction to alcohol. What about my addiction to these alternative worlds?”

“Did you figure all this out on your own?”

“Man, I’m trying to be serious here.”

“I know you are, I’m sorry. Why does it have to be such a big deal? Why can’t you read, write, and drink? Where’s the problem? It brings happiness to this life of yours. I’m cool with it. Are you cool with it?”

“Most of the time I think so.”

“When aren’t you content with your life?”

“Well, every once in awhile I think about…about…her”

“Mary? Are you serious? It’s been two damn years!”

“It’s not that simple.”

“I’m more worried about your addiction to her.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“What do you think it means? It has been two years and you’re still thinking about her on a daily basis. Do you really think that is healthy?”

“Hey waitress, can we get another round? Thank you.”

“And you wonder why people think you’re an alcoholic? Are you always going to avoid life with alcohol? When was the last time you went some place?”

“What’s with the twenty questions?”

“I’m just trying to help you out. I’m concerned about you. I know you can have so much more in your life than what you have now. I don’t want to see you give up on living life because one girl didn’t see that you were such a great guy.”

“I haven’t given up. Why do you always say things like that? I was in love with Mary. I’m still in love with her. That may sound lame to you, but it is how I feel. I just haven’t met anyone I want to see more than once.”

“In two years, you have not met even one girl? Are you serious? I could go find fifty girls better than Mary right now. It’s not that difficult.”

“Why do you have to be so mean to her? She never did anything to you.”

“She what? Excuse me, she didn’t do anything to me? Do you not remember how she hated me and wanted you to stop being my friend? Dude, she was psycho. We should have called an exorcist or burned her at the stake. Do you think she would have floated?”

“She was just jealous of how close we are. She felt threatened by our friendship.”

“Well, in that case I should have bought her flowers and candy. Remind me why you’re defending her again?”

“I’m not defending her. I simply want you to understand her better.”

“There is nothing simple about that chick.”

“Has anyone ever told you that you are frustrating to talk to?”

“All the time.”

“It’s understandable.”

“Are you serious, you’ve never met a single girl you’ve been interested in during the past two years? That’s quite a long dry spell, even for you.”

“Do we have to keep going over all this?”

“Just answer the question.”

“Well…actually there was this chick I met briefly. But it wasn’t much of anything. We barely spoke.”

“Was she hot?”

“Yes very much so, but that’s not the point. The way she looked at me. It was amazing. No one has ever looked at me like that before. It made me feel like I was worth looking at. It was kinda like how I felt in college when we used to get all those girls. They used to flock to us.”

“College girls are easy.”

“Will you shut up? Are you trying to ruin all of my confidence?”

“I’ll try my best. Cheers!”

“Cheers. So anyway, this girl was just awesome. We bumped into each other as I was walking into this store. As I was helping her pick her stuff up, our eyes locked onto each other. It was an amazing feeling. Something swept over me. I wanted to talk to her, but she ran away. She seemed embarrassed or something. I couldn’t figure out why she left so abruptly. I’ve been thinking about her some. I wish I could have gotten her number or something. Oh hell, what am I going to do?”

“You’re going to start shopping at that store everyday, huh?”

“I think so, yes.”

“You’re pathetic.”

“Yeah? Well, I hate you, so it’s okay.”

“I know.”

“Well, as long as you know.”

A Charmed Life

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“My imagination lives a charmed life.” Grace said.

The weather had started to change. The summer temperatures were lingering in the back of our minds. Grace wore a green, chunky sweater over black yoga pants. I could see the fatigue in her eyes. I don’t know if she wasn’t sleeping well or if it was just the stress. She sipped her venti Starbucks coffee. Grace had always talked about how she hated mornings, but now she was just hiding behind her sunglasses. There wasn’t much effort put into the morning. Her hair was tied back in the tiniest numb of a ponytail possible. That was all her short hair would allow.

“Have you been painting?” I asked.

“Not really, I mean, I have a little bit, but not as much as I need to be.”

“I don’t know much about art. I like your work, but mostly because I can feel your happiness in them.”

“My paintings are depressing as shit!”

“I get that. But I know you’re happiest when you’re painting.”

“I really am.” A smile broke out on her face.

Staring Into A Blank Page

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Staring into a blank page
Where can we take this from here
Will you support an unattractive soul
Will I always find friends of good cheer
I question the future as if it weren’t sold
Please tell me we still have a chance to be free
I type out thoughts that you might never know
But throughout time & space, you’ve meant more to me

I’m An Old Man These Days

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I’m an old man these days
With only memories to tell
Dreams have faded away
Leaving me little to dwell
But I can still remember
My wee friends at dawn
Months after December
The fairies & the Leprechauns
Without who I’d be forever lost
Standing mightily on my Shillelagh
At home with me until the first frost
Walking through the garden daily

*previously posted on former blog

Lewis Carroll

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“The time has come, my little friends, to talk of other things

Of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings

And why the sea is boiling hot, and whether pigs have wings

Calloo, Callay, come run away / With the cabbages and kings”

– The Walrus

 

She Was Telling Stories About Her Darker Creases

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She was telling stories about her darker creases
Seaside jaunts with a tireless string of boys
Social classifications leaving us feeling abused
Systematically wearing down a soul without any noise
Searching for fun in spite of former cuts & bruises
Sensations nearing proportions of hazy juvenile tales
Snapping to after another round of spirited friends
Sold on a notion even though our memory may fail
Sandy journeys bring us back to where we were lost
Still meandering around the area we remember most
Striking out to change the way our life unfolded
Stagnant when we finally return back from the coast