Burnt coffee

Finished a midnight shift,

Serving my species by helping to save strangers’, maybe stranger, lives.

Sitting at the tire and oil change shoppe,

Sipping burnt coffee,

The styrofoam cup covered with black sugar sludge…

Listening to one man bragging,

His son having completed Navy Seal Team 7 training,

The father, a firefighter, keeping up, tandem skydiving nearby.

What does the coffee grower know of this?

Or the person picking coffee beans?

The coffee processing plant workers have an opinion, surely?

Do I?

Belly full of laughs

Here in my hand the universe pulsates.
Here, the stuff of the universe resides.
Here, I hear waveforms, feel rhythms, detect patterns.

All sets are temporary combinations.

The sets of states of energy we call humans, the species Homo sapiens,
Create for themselves selective pattern markers they call history,
Reducing planetary changes within a changing universe down to
Anthropocentric stories told so children can repeat as the truth
Whether they believe the stories or not.

Does the oak tree tell a story to an acorn?

What story does the bee tell the hive?

Sets built upon sets, all interconnected.

Does the Sun tell Jupiter their shared history, why they rotate around each other?

I have no children,
No offspring to perpetuate stories for our ancestral heritage.

But I have nieces, nephews, cousins and friends — mostly younger —
Ones with whom I share stories
Both culturally significant and the stuff of urban legends,
Sometimes with a punchline,
Sometimes with a punch.

I do not expect to be remembered after I’m gone,
Only significant enough for others to recall my face and perhaps my name,
Maybe a biographical detail or two when we meet and talk.

I don’t know much about my bloodline ancestors…
I can trace my family tree, can place family members on parts of Earth
During major anthropocentric historical changes,
But I can’t tell you what they looked like, thought, dreamed, accomplished
Outside of birth, marriage, offspring, divorce, death
(Maybe a few governmental assignments and societal achievements).

I can recite artificial numbers assigned to Earth’s revolution around the Sun:
1066,
1492,
1776.

I can even place at least one ancestor on the North American continent associated with that last number.

But what does it really mean to me?

I mean, really, now, here, at this moment, on the Interwebs, typing electronic poems,
Saying what I want within the confines of polite society?

Do I care about the freedoms that have allowed me to be here?

Do I care about the restrictions that have prevented me from being somewhere else?

I can pretty much travel to any point on this planet and within a few hundred miles of the surface, given enough money, travel visas and space travel training.

Is that not enough freedom?

What more could I possibly want?

The only fears I have are being homeless, broke, feeling incurably painful, locked in a prison with undesirables, socially isolated…

The joys are endless because my view of the universe, including our species, is endlessly entertaining, filling me with happiness.

Dark memories of my youth still pass through my thoughts but I know, because of friends who suffered similar, if not worse childhood conditions, and support me, that the thoughts will fade away and total happiness return.

I live to laugh and have fun, not worrying about a legacy or making historical changes on my own.  My impact on the planet is small, completely insignificant on galactic scales and that’s as it is for all of us, despite our storytelling efforts that seem to turn some humans into gods.

Forever alone?

At one time tragic,

At one time fearful,

Most times happily,

Knowledge of being alone with oneself revealed one’s self to oneself.

Yet, alone I am,

Have always been,

Will always be.

The innate biological desire to procreate

Burdens me with sexual desires never sated

With others or myself;

Thus, I wander this planet

Waiting, hoping, wishing to die sooner

Rather than later.

Explaining that to others,

Particularly those of the Christian religious belief set,

Grew old in the first telling.

I am alone not only mentally my whole life

But also in my home and work life,

Able to do as I please,

Sleep most of the time

(Simulated death, reducing my active living state as much as possible).

If I avoid social media,

I also reduce the automated responses

From my three-headed self —

Chameleon, people pleaser, contrarian —

But I’m married and have immediate family that I depend on financially,

Trapping this gigolo in a gilded cage for life,

Forever alone entertaining passersby in a crowd.

Why the unexpected sadness?

Amy and I had long talks, talks that she said she could have with no other person because not only did I listen to what she said, I analysed her words, anticipated her thoughts and told her what I believed she was going to do next, advising her whether her next actions were best for her or not.

Most guys she knew either she quickly had sex with to give them the only thing they wanted from her or she saw that they were willing to trade something for sex with her, be it money or something else she’d ask for.

I was the only person who seemed to care what was going on in her head.

As I built up the image of her thought patterns and fed them back to her, she saw our cultural differences and wondered about our longterm compatibility.

I cared about her health and wellbeing whereas she said that, given her childhood and schizophrenic tendencies, there was going to be no eventual safe haven for her to settle into; thus, no reason for me to care about her health, just have a good time in the moment and assume we were going to die young somehow.

The guys who gave her money and bought her things were more than willing to live the philosophy of “eat, drink and be merry because tomorrow you may die.”

Those were the days…

Amy and I would take a few buttons of mushrooms and wander the streets of downtown Knoxville, observing the people around us, imagining we were them, pretending we were the old couples walking hand-in-hand, taking each other’s hand and acting like elderly life companions.

We had lots of fun when we were alone together, whether sitting on the concrete steps of an empty lot, lying in bed and looking up at the stars through the bedroom window, or standing in a bar.

I knew I could never have her for myself.

When I got the flat across the river from downtown, I thought it was going to be a great place for me to study the material given to me by the Steak & Ale restaurant manager who had high hopes for my future in the restaurant business.

Amy knew it was a great place to bring guys who didn’t necessarily want to be seen in the downtown area with her.  She also wanted to let the guys know that it was my flat so they had the impression I was in charge, just in case some of the guys were a little too aggressive or possessive of her.

There were a few.

They knew I had Amy’s best interest at heart and didn’t like the contrast between good-times, self-destructive Amy and the guy she was living with, who seemed to keep her from drinking too much, knowing when she drank too much she didn’t pay attention to people stealing things from her apartment.

Her last boyfriend didn’t care how destructive she was when drunk because he was getting more sex than he’d ever had before and just accepted people walking out with his booze, food and clothing was the price you had to pay to have Amy in your life.

So maybe I was too practical, too square, as it were, just because I was struggling to start my own business whilst working a fulltime job as dishwasher, cook, barkeep and bookkeeper trainee, studying in my offhours to become an assistant restaurant manager, every nickel and dime going toward basic living expenses, let alone funding the daily parties Amy had in the flat, convincing guys that I had all the money to pay for the food and drink.

The nerdy geek, the engineer in training, was still in me.

I was not that far removed from my failed freshman year at Georgia Tech as a Navy midshipman with a fully-funded four-year scholarship, obstensibly working toward a chemical engineering degree.

Amy was only partially getting me away from all that, away from the white picket fence, two kids, one cat, one dog and a station wagon in Vanilla Suburbia.

Both my feet were planted in her world but my thoughts were spread across many potential futures.

One night, when I was looking at my overdrawn bank account ledger, trying to figure out how to get more customers (and credit to Amy for bringing guys who wanted to buy stuff from me), scratching myself because of a flea infestation that started in one of the bedrooms of the flat, I panicked.

I was trapped, falling quickly into debt with no clear vision for my future.

I knew Amy’s future.

She knew it, too.

She didn’t want to live to be old.

She wanted to die young, perhaps of a drug overdose or a crazy boyfriend or some random guy in the back alley.

Amy’s parents had been hippies traveling the country in a camper van, raising Amy on the side of the road, teaching her to live off the land, including theft of food from roadside convenience stores and unlocked cars; accepting money from strangers who fell for the “woe is us, we’re broke and need to buy food for our baby” story, unashamed to be nude in public, squatting to pee or poop whenever the urge occurred, making love with whomever they felt the desire in the moment, making up stories about their lives to entertain others, sometimes have to avoid the police but never on the run from them.

Live and let live.

Amy’s parents eventually settled down, found regular jobs and planned to live to old age.

They knew there was something the matter with Amy and would send her money whenever she lied to them that she was about to start a college class or needed new glasses and was broke — they knew she lied but went along with lie, hoping she might be telling the truth sometimes.

That is, until her mother came to visit when Amy was with her last boyfriend, Tim.

The visit changed Tim.  Amy’s mother described Amy’s problems to a fault, making her out to be a sociopath, schizophrenic and petty thief but her mother still loved her and hoped Amy would grow up.  Tim was no longer interested in Amy living with him, tired of people taking his stuff, including at least once his dirty underwear!

It was Amy who convinced me to get a flat with her.

She played up the fact we were both outcasts, perfectly suited to shack up together.

My sister, with whom I was sharing a flat at the time, didn’t trust Amy, having seen Amy steal stuff from her.  She didn’t think I should spend time with Amy, get on with my life, the type of suburban living in which we were raised and were destined to perpetuate.

I love everyone with judgment.

I accept that the reality you wish to perpetuate with your thoughts and actions is as real as any other, despite impractical application or clashing with society at large.

I am a passenger on this planet-sized boat, with a very, very, very short lifespan, willing to go along with whatever, whenever, wherever.

If Amy wanted a flat with me, then why not go for it?

While I sat cross-legged on a mattress like an island floating atop a carpeted sea of fleas, I questioned my sanity.

I don’t know that I’m very smart, or smart at all.  My memorisation skills are poorly developed, my discipline for concentration limited and my self-confidence very low.

I had a flat half paid for, debt that was piling up, an absentee girlfriend and a future as a barkeep that might not pan out, unsure if I wanted to be a bookkeeper working dawn to dusk just to fund Amy’s lifestyle.

Everyone told me that Amy was fucking crazy but I never saw that when I was with her.  We clicked in a way that brought out the sane, rational side of her, a side where she could think about going to college, could take a job as a waitress at a downtown diner and bring money home.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t be with her 24/7.

She said whatever she wanted except when she was with me and knew that I’d ask if what she said was a delusion/fantasy when it didn’t make sense.  Sometimes what she said was a convuluted mixture that she couldn’t tell if it was real or not.  She was used to guys just ignoring what she said as long as they got what they wanted, whether it was her on their arm making them look good or something else.

Maybe I shouldn’t be an analytical nerd 24/7.

Maybe I should just go with the flow, ignoring what people say, and get what I want for myself from them without caring about the longterm consequences for the people I take advantage of.

Maybe that’s why I’ve been sad lately, giving of myself to others to help them find their way, get better, succeed, whilst I wallow in the detritus of a depressed lifestyle.

It’s not maybe.

It is.

I think I know what I want to be something more than I am but whatever it is — fear, depression, laziness, lack of motivation, lack of self-worth — keeps me from stepping up out of this comfortable mudhole.

If I think about it too much, I wish myself dead rather than face myself again in the same dusty, moldy, cobweb-covered mirror tomorrow.

Some people have their dreams they are turning into reality, whether it be start their own clothing store, build a global distribution network or set sail for Mars.

What is my dream?

Rather, what dreams have I not already turned into reality?

I live in the cabin the woods I dreamt of as a kid, residing in a community of academics, engineers, scientists, artists and entrepreneurs of many professions, writing daily, sipping coffee in cafes, with a couple of cats and a life companion who not only pays for most of the stuff we own but also cooks our dinner and washes/dries our clothes.

What else could I possibly dream of and want?

After all, I worked on the space shuttle main engine controller, helping to put people in space and build the International Space Station.  I published a novel and received a professional review of my novel.  I worked in Europe and lived there weeks at a time, traveling to places I wanted to see and places that changed my perspective permanently.  I owned two Italian sports cars, twin 1984 Alfa Romeo Spyders.

I have a sunroom instead of a greenhouse.

I haven’t yet traveled to Italy but global tourism has turned the sites I want to see into ruins crawling with human-sized ants.

What else do I want?

Well, I want children of my own to carry on the genetic if not the cultural legacy — that’s about it, all that’s left of my childhood dreams.

Everything else I do is related to helping my friends make their dreams into reality, which I willingly volunteer to assist.

At 55, fathering children is risky.

My window of opportunity for healthy, socially productive children may have closed.

Instead, I may father an Amy Easter who brings joy to many but will never live a stable adulthood.

Is that so bad?

Didn’t Amy and I have a good time together until she said she couldn’t live with me, that she was ruining my life, that she knew she was fucking crazy and wanted to die, and then moved in with a guy who was into carving himself with broken pieces of dirty Coke bottles, hoping he’d permanently scar himself with infections, possibly die, take Amy with him?

I lost touch with Amy after she moved out.

I also lost hope and wanted to kill myself, imagining driving off a cliff along the Pacific Ocean coastline.

I stole my parents’ station wagon and drove from Knoxville to Seattle to LA and back in about two weeks’ time, moving out of the flat and back into my parents’ house to complete a collegiate associate’s degree whilst dating married/divorced older women.

Sure, I’ve repeated this story many times, revealing different details, but I’ve done so in order to ask myself if there’s anything new I can learn from the retelling.

What if all my life has been has been to help others see themselves and act according to their true nature, whether that be self-destructive or successful entrepreneur?

What if it’s to help only one person other than myself become someone they never dreamt possible?

What if it’s not any purpose at all and I’m just here, now, writing, and in the next moment, showering to prepare for working the night shift, and the next moment doing something else, so on and so forth, just sets of states of energy in motion with a feedback loop that generates an imaginary sense of self?

How can a set of states of energy in motion undo its illusionary sense of selfhood?

And will that get rid of this longterm sadness I’ve felt for the last few months so I can tell a person I want to have children with her and get on with my new life, changing my plans according to her answer?

Ten minutes

Ten minutes at the end of a meal break,

Ten minutes alone at work,

Ten minutes surrounded by virtual friends,

Nine minutes to recognise my depression,

Eight minutes to ask why I don’t cry anymore,

Seven minutes to know why I laugh and smile,

Six minutes to listen to cicadas,

Six minutes to let go of the past,

Six minutes to breathe at last,

Five minutes to pace the carpark,

Five minutes to think of the future,

Five minutes to remember moments like this,

Four minutes to walk back inside,

Four minutes to plan out the rest of the work shift,

Three minutes to notice hums in the building, like a living being,

Three minutes to badge back in,

Three minutes to enter the break room, smell old meals,

Two minutes to look at newspaper adverts,

Two minutes to approach the time clock,

One minute to contemplate delayed decisions,

One minute to relax and post this poem.

Zero minutes, poem done!