Find Me When You’re Lost

A subservient once heard from his master, “Find me when you’re lost.” The subservient took great comfort in the phrase his benign master would often use to hearten him. The subservient always took it to infer that his master would always avail himself in times of need.

The subservient waited on his master hand and foot, being in constant reverence of such an established authority that was simultaneously charitable beyond reason. Eras went by and the master passed into old age.

Though weak and feeble, the master remained a pillar of strength and nobility in the subservient’s eyes. The master finally passed unto death but in his last breaths, he looked into the eyes of the subservient and for the first time, the subservient saw frailty, uncertainty, fear and death in his master’s gaze.

In this last breath, with the alienation of quietus in his eyes, the master said to the subservient, “Find me when you’re lost.” For the first time, the subservient heard these words, aligned them in his mind, and felt them become a harbinger of desperation. What once was a decree, in an instant, gazing into mortal fear, became a dire plea.

The subservient went from his felled master and pondered the phrase that had once quelled all variables in his mind. He experienced a sorrow that scarred him potently and profoundly.

The words of the master who was an unshakable pillar, took on a stark and ghostly form when spoken by the master who was trembling in the face of mortality – even though words were exactly the same.

In the last moments of his master’s life the subservient realized that his master was not offering an unwavering beacon, but was actually begging to be rescued from an unknowable abyss.

This realization cast the subservient into darkness and he found himself lost. It was at this point that the subservient, all too late, learned that you cannot find anyone when it is you that is lost.

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The Imposition of Darkness

There was a day that I sat down with whom I would consider one of my best friends. This friend of mine was always pretty cavalier about recreational drug use, but kept it light. Then there came a time when I noticed his casual drug intake was trending upward. It was around this time that I got to sit down and have a heart-to-heart with him. Just the two of us.

The conversation began slow. He and I were sitting in such a way that I could only see the side of his face; his profile. He would only turn to face me when he was talking about something that was particularly pertinent.

So at one point, he turned to me and said, “I think I saw the devil.” After asking incredulous and rhetorical questions, I just let him speak.

“It was about a month ago. I was passed out on the couch and woke up in the middle of the night. As soon as I opened my eyes, I knew I was being watched. I didn’t think, I knew. I looked around the room. It was dark but then I saw something darker than the normal nighttime darkness of my living room. It was about the size and shape of a man. I just lay there, staring back at it. I mean, it didn’t have eyes, but I was just staring into it.” He paused here. “It scared me a lot. I mean I know I had a lot to drink, but I’m telling you, I was certain in that moment that what I was seeing wasn’t just my imagination or some hallucination.”

“So I’m staring back at him and then it starts to move closer to me. I don’t know how, but I knew it would do no good for me to try to move or run away from it. I just sort of let it get closer to me. It’s getting closer and it’s just…expanding. It’s darkness I mean, it just starts enveloping the whole room. Then, just before all I can see is the darkness of this thing, it stops so that from the fringes of my sight, I could still see some of the wall and the ceiling and shit. He-he, it, if there is an omniscient being like the devil, I doubt it has a gender-anyway he just stays there so that he is almost all I could see. It doesn’t move any closer. And I can do nothing but lie there and stare at his darkness.

“It never moved again. It just stood there over me as I’m splayed out on the couch. After a while it becomes apparent that nothing is going to happen and there was nothing to do but lay my head down, close my eyes and go back to sleep. And that’s what I did.”

“Jesus, I’m surprised you were even able to go back to sleep. I would have been scared shitless.”

“That’s the weird thing,” he started again, “I was scared but somehow I knew that the only thing to do in that situation was go back to sleep.”

“And you’re positive it wasn’t just a dream?” I asked.

He turned his face away from mine and explained, “I wasn’t so sure at first, but I’ve only told you the half of it. I would have been able to shrug it off as a dream if I weren’t still seeing him.” I stayed silent. “The next morning I woke up and the blackness was gone. Everything in the room was normal. But then I started noticing something: if ever I let my eyes focus on anything for a little while, any time I am at rest, left to my own devices and the silence of my mind, I see him. A blackness not so imposing or large as that night but it’s surely there. A spot of darkness behind everything I see. If I sit and stare long enough, he gets bigger.”

He turned his face back toward me and gazed in my direction intently for a few seconds. I couldn’t resist to ask the obvious question, even though I was frightened to hear the answer and I’m sure he was hesitant to tell me, “Do you see him now?” He maintained eye contact with me and said, “Yes.”

“What does he look like?”

“Like nothing. Like blackness; shapeless but deep blackness.” He broke eye contact with me and looked back in the direction he was sitting, perpendicular to me. “Sometimes I can’t even say that I physically see him, but his impression is there and I’m certain of it. I actually wish I saw him every time because it’s when I can’t see him that is most distressing. I know he’s there whether I can see him or not.”

A better man might know what to say to a loved one that just told him that he sees the devil on a regular basis, but I was at a loss. I’ve heard ghost stories before but nothing like this coming from someone I would consider a very reasonable man, someone that I trusted and frankly, loved.

Indeed, what is there to say? But this is what I ventured: “I can’t imagine how you’ve been dealing with that. But I gotta say, I’ve noticed you’ve kicked it up a notch with the pills and booze.”

He looked back at me and said, “If I focus on anything for too long, in other words, if I’m not distracted, he gets bigger. So, I keep myself distracted.”

“And that helps?” I inquired.

“It does,” he said calmly, “but it use to help me a lot more than it does now. It’s getting worse. It’s getting closer to me. I don’t just see him, he’s in my mind and I can almost feel his weight bearing down on my body. I know I’m not going to be hurt but I know something else, I can just feel it.”

“What?” I asked.

He called me by name and answered, “Somehow, some way, he’s coming for me.”

To this day I couldn’t say with any certainty what he meant by that. All I knew was that I was scared and worried for him. And, as it turns out, I had cause to be. Eight months after we had this conversation, my friend stopped his heart with a lethal mixture of codeine and oxycodone. It wasn’t determined whether it was accidental or intentional. I wept a great deal for my friend but, like he must have, I saw it coming.

 

Burned

There was a fire that burned all around us, and people were afraid.

They feared for their homes and the roads that they had paved.

We became diaspora and fled as refugees,

in the hopes of returning to anything that the flames did not seize.

People huddled together but the prevailing emotion was unease,

Routines were disrupted and entire lives were put on freeze.

Screens flashed text and images that were grim.

They served to add to the people’s worries and make hope very dim.

Meanwhile the inferno was raging, being fed by a wind that was dry.

The hell-zephyr birthed the fire in new places and whipped its flames high into the sky.

At night, all one could see was an eerie, otherworldly orange glow,

in the hills of the valley because the fire had choked off all the lights below.

By day, one would be shrouded in blinding smoke and totally unaware,

that the fire was  creeping dangerously close to all for which they care.

But just in time, there came a day that the flames lost their fuel.

The wind died down and the forces of preservation had won the duel.

There was a great collective sigh as the people returned to their lives.

Primal stresses were lifted and we went back to sharpening our knives.

Upon return, we found our houses were still standing.

And standing next to them was all that we forgot was troublesome and demanding.

Perspective was lost and we resumed existence as domesticated creatures;

losing all propulsion and reinstating that which is ill as teachers.

Being grateful for the wrong things is crippling as far as I am concerned.

The fire did take my home, there was a wind that could not be turned.

As I sit in my home and reflect on what I’ve learned,

the only thing I can come up with is that this place should have burned.

Interpreting Dreams

“So I’m in a field and I come upon a single tree. It’s not big. The canopy of the thing is maybe seven or eight feet high and it doesn’t cover a whole lot of ground. Anyway, I kneel down underneath it and I start noticing glimmers in the dirt at it’s base. I guess somewhere around this time it starts to rain pretty hard. But the canopy of the tree is guarding me from it like an umbrella so I’m not getting drenched and I’m not paying the rain much attention anyway. Instead, I’m intent on these glimmers I’m seeing in the dirt at the base of this tree and I begin to scrape at it.”

“Well, I’m digging through the dirt with my hands at this thing that is partially covered up and I pull it up to see it’s a coin. A nickle or quarter or dime or something. Then I notice more. Some are partially buried with only their centers exposed and some are just lying there atop the ground, plain as day.”

“The more I look, the more of them I see. All silvery coins just lying there in the dirt under this tree. Anyway, I start digging and picking up these silver coins–they were all silver, mostly nickels and dimes but some quarters too, I guess the important thing though was that they were all silver coins–all the while the rain is falling and I am staying relatively dry under the canopy of the tree. There are a few drops here and there that make it through but nothing that draws my attention away from excavating these coins. They are covered in dirt obviously and I’m gathering them up in my hands one by one.”

“Then the idea occurs to me to wash them off in the rain. So to give you an idea of how small this tree that I was kneeling under was, all I had to do was take them in my hand and reach out so that they caught the rain that was falling outside of it’s canopy. And this may have been the most vivid and impressing part of the dream: after washing them in the rain and bringing them back under the canopy, I held them in my hands and they were the most vibrant and clean shade of silver I could imagine.”

“They were beautiful, really. Like freshly minted coins. Then I gathered more and rinsed them in the rain by simply reaching my hand out. I did this until I had more crisp, clean, silver coins in my hand than I could carry. They were spilling out of my cupped hands in fact, but I wanted to take them all. I couldn’t though. And it ends with me trying, almost desperately, to corral all of these coins. And failing.”

“Some are spilling out of my hands. I don’t know though, for some reason, the way the rain was so effective in making the coins so clean, and the amazing silvery sheen of the coins after they had been rinsed in the rain, stand out the most to me about the dream. I’ve been thinking about it for days because the imagery has just stuck with me. But I have no clue what it could or might mean. What do you think?”

“Sounds pretty cool. There was nothing that happened after trying to gather all the coins?” Brian asked.

“Nope. Well yeah, there was, but it was kind of that weird segue into another dream that always happens. At any rate, I knew it wasn’t important, you know? The significance of the dream was definitely contained in the scene I just described to you.” Answered Paul.

There was a long silent pause as Brian contemplated the dreamscape that Paul just described. It was obviously important enough for Paul to share with him so Brian didn’t want to have nothing to say. Brian thought hard about the images described to him. Then something occurred to him.”You were finding coins–money–in the dirt?” He probed.

“Yeah. Cleaning them off in the rain that fell just outside the canopy of this tree I was under.”

Brian grasped on to the first inclination that came to him, “Well it sounds like maybe you are finding wealth, or riches of some kind, in humble places. Like maybe you’re pulling something from nothing. Diamonds in the rough kind of thing, ya know? How long have you been dating Melissa?”

“A year and a half or so. You saying she came from the dirt?” Paul responded.

“No, no man, just trying to piece things together.”

“Yeah, that was one of the first things I thought about too. Doesn’t seem quite satisfactory though. There was just something about how silver the coins became after washing them off in the rain.” There was another extended pause between the two, then Paul continued, “definitely something about how…unnaturally silver they became.”

That night as Paul was making his way through the streets on his drive towards his girlfriend’s house, the images he dreamt came to his mind again. He turned the stereo down so that all he heard was the working of his engine and other cars passing by. At a red light, the vividness of the coins came back to him. He became convinced that this was the crux of his dream. But there was still so much more to consider. He decided to take a detour.

“Hey, I thought you were going to be here sooner. I already started eating.” Melissa said as she welcomed her boyfriend into her apartment.

He kissed her and said, “It’s ok, I’m not really hungry. More tired than anything. I kinda just want to lay down, maybe sleep early.”

“Is everything ok?” Melissa asked.

“Yeah, work is just kicking my ass.” He embraced her warmly and gave her a reassuring kiss. Then he headed for the bedroom. As he lay awake in Melissa’s bed, she was doing dishes and cleaning up the kitchen. He was flat on his back and staring up at the ceiling. Then, very quickly, he sprung out of bed and reached into his day bag that he had placed next to the bed on the ground. He took out a small nylon pouch, a lighter, and a small plastic bag then stole away to the master bathroom.

He flushed the toilet but didn’t care enough to put up anything more in terms of a smoke screen. When he emerged Melissa was already changed and settling herself into the bed. Paul turned the lights off and joined her in bed.

Melissa drew close to him after they made love. “What did you have for dinner?” she asked him as she nestled her cheek against his chest.

“I didn’t have any dinner.” He answered in a drawl.

“You said you had already eaten.” She volleyed back.

He took a few beats to respond. “I said I wasn’t hungry. Never said I ate.” He was answering with few words and slurring his speech pretty badly.

She looked up at his face but he had his eyes closed and his expression was so blank that it all but gave him away. It seemed to Melissa like the standard template of a face before god puts any features on it. “Are you ok?” she investigated, leering ever more intently on his face.

He kept his face pointed toward the ceiling, his eyes closed, and answered shortly, “I’m tired.”

She reached across his body and switched on the lamp set atop her nightstand. Now he had to open his eyes. What she saw was a pair of glassy eyes in the dim light of the lamp. She hesitated for a moment, then spoke, “Don’t tell me–goddammit Paul, are you using again?!”

He didn’t answer–just shut his eyes up again, lying on his back.

“What the fuck Paul, did you just shoot up here in my room?!”

Still no answer or movement. Then Melissa climbed over him and reached into his day bag.

Paul snapped to life. “Hey! That’s not yours is it?!” It was like a comatose person being stabbed in the heart with a syringe of pure adrenaline.

That was all she needed to know. She stood over him beside the bed and he propped himself up on his elbows. “Goddammit Paul, when did you start using again?” She demanded.

“Not that it’s any of your business but tonight was the first time in over a year.” he answered coolly.

“Not that it’s any of my business?!” She echoed, most appalled.

He began puling himself out of bed and gathering his clothes that were strewn all over the bed. “Well, I figure it’s my body, and so long as what I do with my body doesn’t effect you in any negative way, you don’t need to know about it.” He responded as he pulled his shirt over his head and down his lean torso.

“Jesus, you’re a fucking asshole when you’re on that shit!” Melissa gasped out.

He began puling his pants up and cinching his belt. “And you’re a potty mouth when you’re sober so I guess we’re even.” He flung his day bag over his shoulder and made for the door.

“Where are you going?” Melissa demanded.

“Home.” Paul answered. He walked out of her bedroom and she heard the front door open and close quietly.

Once Paul was home, he shot up one more time. That night, there was a full moon and Paul could see it from his bedroom window as he sat, smacked out, on the edge of his bed. His high put him in a daze and he stayed staring at the bright, full moon as the thoughts passed from one edge of his brain to the other, and finally on to oblivion.

The moon shone a pale, milky white and while striking to behold, ‘nothing like the coins’ Paul thought. He could sit erect no longer and fell backwards on his bed.

Almost a week passed before he heard anything from Melissa. As he saw her name flash suddenly on the screen of his phone, he became aware just how much time had passed since the night he left her apartment. He was surprised at how long she was able to wait. He answered her call, “Hello.”

“Jesus you even sound high again,” was her greeting.

“That’s funny because I’m not.” He replied in a flat tone that made it clear that he had no interest in arguing her assumption.

“Yeah right, so–” before Melissa could continue any further, Paul stopped her. “If you called to scold me, I don’t want to hear it. In fact, whatever the reason you called me, you’re probably going to be disappointed.”

“I’m already disappointed. You’re using again.” her voice was still fiery after the handful of days since Paul heard it last. At this last statement of hers, Paul remembered her nature as it really was underneath all her layers of insincere kindness and civility; self-serving, and at it’s core, completely uninterested in the concerns of others.

He was getting angry and he didn’t want to grow angry from this exchange. “Melissa, I don’t want you to call me again. I don’t want you to text me, I do’;t want you to email me, and I definitely don’t want you coming to my apartment anymore. I don’t want to see you anymore–at all, in any sense.”

He could hear her huff incredulously, a pause, and then, “I can’t believe what a scumbag you must have always been–and how apparently good you were at hiding it for so long. I can’t believe your choosing fucking heroin over me.”

He put an end to her ranting right there, “Whoa whoa whoa…let’s make this clear. I’m not choosing heroin or anything over you. I’m just not choosing you.”

A week passed since Paul’s phone conversation with Melissa and he had scarcely left his apartment. He was deliberately putting himself through a hellish cycle–using to excess one day then letting a couple days pass while he suffered self-imposed withdrawals.

On his table were half-eaten meals that he couldn’t choke down. His bed was a mass of clothes. Sweaters that he would squirm into when his withdrawal made him steely cold, and shed when he began to sweat uncontrollably.

There were a dozen quarter-empty to half-empty plastic water bottles scattered across the floor of his bedroom. His fridge was empty but his kitchen was sloppy with haphazardly slapped together and abandoned meals that were starting to give the whole place a rounded, rancid smell.

Of course, during this period, he had not been to work at all which is what prompted all the calls from Brian that went missed or unanswered. Paul had let his phone battery die and only ever charged it and looked at it when he needed to re-up. In fact, as far as Paul could remember, he hadn’t left his apartment at all except for the sole purpose of scoring.

And that is what prompted Paul to plug his phone in and look at it on this day. This was an “on” day so he allowed himself to shoot up but he was almost completely out. It was time to pick up and this is when he saw all the missed calls from his boss–these were wholeheartedly expected–but almost as many calls from his co-worker, friend of 6 years, and the only person Paul had described his dream to. Brian.

This triggered a new train of thought in Paul’s brain that was, in it’s current state, having plenty of trouble communicating effectively between lobes. He scrolled through all the missed calls and figured that this was a chore that should be handled in person.

Paul and Brian arranged to meet at a cafe that was close to their office. Brian was already there and seated at the outside table under an awning where they almost always had lunch together. Paul sauntered up to the cafe and spotted Brian quickly. As he walked toward him, he thought about how long he had known this man and how little he really knew him.

Brian sat back in his chair and just stared at Paul while he walked over. “Christ, I didn’t want to believe it, I didn’t even want to consider it. Fuck man, what happened?”

“Nothing.” Paul replied and sat down. He hated that his heroin use was always the first thing anyone mentioned. Which was, in part, why he secluded himself for a week. He hated even more that he couldn’t hide when he was high. Brian had actually told him once that he walks a certain way when he’s smacked up.

“Something must’ve happened man. You were doing so well.” Brian commented.

Paul was getting incredibly tired of hearing how well he was doing and that “well” equaled “clean.” Brian had known Paul when he was completely lost in addiction, and when he got clean and started living a life that most people would call normal; a job, a girlfriend, and lack of a swallowing addiction.

Paul was already getting frustrated with Brian’s words and began regretting his decision to meet him in person. But he closed his eyes and refocused as well as he could in his current state. “Like I said, nothing happened. Anyway I’m not here to talk about that.”

Just then, a waitress walked up and interjected. Brian ordered a latte and Denver omelette. Paul didn’t order anything.

“Really. What are you here to talk about? You know Melissa called me crying, saying that you broke up with her.”

At this last statement, Paul’s focus sharpened to a needlepoint. He didn’t say anything for a few seconds; just stared into Brian’s eyes. “Why do you suppose she called you?”

“Because we’re friends, and she was distraught.” Brian answered.

Paul let it go. “Do you remember that dream I told you about? The one with the coins and the rain?” Paul asked.

Brian moved the pupils of his eyes in an upward arc; thinking. “Yeah, I think so. Why?”

“I think I’ve finally realized what it means.” Paul said calmly.

“What’s that?” Brian inquired.

“Well you suggested that it meant that I would find something or somethings of value in humble places. Or unexpected places or whatever. And to be honest, I’ve been wondering about this dream–what it meant–until this moment. I know now that we both looked at the images all out of order. The coins don’t represent something outside of me. They actually represent me. My life. In the dream I rinsed them in the rain that fell outside the shelter of the canopy of the tree I was under until they were so beautifully, vividly, silver. Now I know that I have to cleanse myself, my life, of all the dirt that I’ve sunk it into over the years for it to be truly beautiful. I have to shed the dirt.”

“I agree,” commented Brian in a tone of relief. He continued, “You could start with that shit,” pointing at the crook of Paul’s arm.

“Nah” replied Paul. “That’s not it. There’s real dirt in my life. There was a pause between them and then Paul continued. “I met you here because I wanted to let you know that we’re not friends. I’m not going to see you anymore after this. I’m going to lose your number and I suggest you do the same.”

“Wow, where is this coming from?” Brian asked but Paul didn’t answer. Instead, he stood up, got ready to walk away and asked, “Do you remember my housewarming party? After I stopped using, had been working full-time for a long time, hooked up with Melissa, and leased my apartment?”

Brian answered suspiciously, “Yeah…”

“I saw you. I saw you and Melissa.”

Like a boxer on the ropes, Brian replied, “You saw us? That’s great, we saw you too. We saw Tim, Lindsey, Jared, Sam…Mike. We all saw each other that night. What’s your point?”

“You grabbed her ass. You grabbed her ass and she laughed. You whispered something in her ear and then you guys proceeded to exchange numbers.” Paul answered.

“Paul, nothing came of that. We were drunk, ok? I’m sorry. Anyway that was years ago man, and you’re just bringing it up now?” Brian contended.

“Goodbye Brian,” Paul said and walked away.

A few nights later Paul gathered up the last few hundred dollars he had left in his bank account, called his connect, and bought as much smack as he could. Then he drove out to Santa Monica and parked about a half mile away from the pier.

He took from his car a heavy sweater that he immediately flung on, a flannel shirt, and a pre-prepped syringe filled with all the junk he just bought. It was late and all the patrons had vacated the cold windy beach hours ago but the lights of the pier were still blazing.

‘It’s nice’ Paul thought to himself as he trekked to where the sand begins to slope down and the foam sizzles out on the shore. He put the flannel down on the sand and sat on it. And with the cornucopia of unnatural light coming from the ferris wheel flashing and rotating off in the distance, the sound of the ocean threatening to soak or sweep him away, and a silvery moon shining in the sky, he shot up everything in the syringe.

He immediately fell flat on his back atop his flannel and saw the planes taking off from the airport low in the night sky. His hope was that he will have shed the last specks of dirt from himself.

 

 

Half-Empty

There were two shot glasses set atop the table in the dining room. There were four chairs around the table and three of them were empty. The smell of bourbon pervaded the room. One man sat in a chair that made it so the left side of his body was facing the sliding glass door that was the portal from the dining room to the backyard. There was no light shining through the glass of that door.

A nice bottle of bourbon sat half empty on the table in front of the man. He rested his forehead against the palms of both hands. The chair across the table from him was askew; it’s backrest facing more toward the sliding glass door than toward the kitchen counter like it would have been if it were placed neatly. The only sensation more prominent in the room than the odor of aerated bourbon was the thorough silence.

Just a few minutes ago however, the room was raucous with noise. The man’s throat began to feel sore. In this moment, he remembered how someone had told him that whiskey, or bourbon, basically eats away at one’s vocal chords–like acid for your throat.

He thought of this as he tipped some more bourbon into one of the shot glasses and knocked it down. He felt the burn against his throat and the warmth advancing on his gut. He also thought that with the shot, he could actually feel himself become drunker and more dour.

He immediately began musing to himself that stripped vocal chords might actually do him a lot of good. ‘Definitely more dour’ he thought to himself as he served up another shot of the fine bourbon. It was an expensive bottle and when he went out to procure it, the evening carried with it so much hope. As the night lurched on and the liquid inside of the bottle dwindled however, so too did that hope.

Another shot. This time to hear something besides the silence all around him. He made it a point to set the bottle down hard on the wooden table when he was done pouring, and to damn near slam the shot glass back down to the surface after downing the liquid. He let out a long, audible breath that to anyone else would have signified refreshment. But it just made him feel more miserable because when he was done with the brief spectacle, the house was silent again.

There was a little over a quarter of a bottle left now but the man was still keenly aware of his situation and felt that any prospects of a turnaround–any hope of rationalizing it all towards some optimistic end–were only growing scarcer.

He thought back to when the bottle was full. There was easy conversation then, and the loneliness the man desperately wanted to scare away, was actually hiding somewhere away from his senses.

Somewhere around when the bottle was 3/4 full the conversation was beginning to turn. In retrospect, the man thought that maybe that was the time he began placing too much responsibility on the other. ‘But if that were the case’ he reasoned to himself ‘then I was expecting too much even from the very beginning.’

When the brown liquid reached the middle of the label, the night began unraveling but the man kept going because at least it wasn’t loneliness he was feeling. No, instead, as the dialogue was getting heated, there was a frantic urge to salvage the night coupled with a wild lust to prove some mercurial point.

None of the words borne of this jangled state of mind came out sweetly. Before long there was a full-fledged shouting match erupting in the usually quiet home. As the man yelled, he felt the numbness of the bourbon in his throat and a fiery whiteness in his mind. He almost felt like shouting and being hostile were the best things to be doing in the moment. Nothing else existed other than the sport of being aggressive. It somehow felt good.

As the nonsensical argument blasted on, the man began noticing a strange feeling of being in his element. There was some great satisfaction that came from raging–by any means–against the numbness that grew more prevalent with each swallow of the brown liquid.

He cursed, banged his fist on the table, and screamed until he felt a grating in his throat, but it all felt good. Like throwing unfettered haymakers non-stop in a room flooded floor to ceiling with cotton balls. When the other had enough and the shouting ran out of momentum, the bottle was half-empty.

At present however, there was a little less than a quarter of the bourbon left and there was no numbness left in the man. Only an acute longing that would not disappear. It had come out of hiding.

Consumption had always worked in the opposite way for the man before, and he grew profoundly troubled with each slug he took down. But at this point, there was no other course of action to take. He filled up his glass once again and after this shot, a new feeling seized his consciousness–fear.

The man felt fear at seeing the liquid in the bottle almost completely gone and still being so far from any kind of resolution. There was almost no hope that the man’s longing, regret, and loneliness would subside by the time the bottle was spent.

But again, there was no turning back now. The man pushed his shoulders back in his chair, bracing his arms against the heavy table.He took stock of the room and allowed himself to listen to the silence. The noiselessness did battle with his burning thoughts and at the same time, fueled them.

He took the bottle in his hand and as silently as he possibly could, poured himself the last of the bourbon. He held the bottle completely upside down for several moments so as to let every last drop consolidate, build, and then drop meagerly into his shot glass. The glass was filled nearly to the brim.

The biggest shot of the night. The man raised it to his face, craned his neck backwards, opened his mouth and tilted the contents of his little glass straight down his throat. Without a sound, he set the glass down very gently back on the table.

Then, a brilliant flash of light went off in his mind. ‘Of course, that’s gotta be it!’ he thought to himself. ‘There just wasn’t enough of it. I was sharing!’ He clung to this feeble excuse  as a man cast overboard a ship will cling to a life-preserver. The observation consoled him as to how the bottle could be so empty with him still feeling so hopeless.

As he thought this, he heard the faint conversation of a man and a woman as they walked towards his house out on the sidewalk. For once, the utter silence of his home worked to his advantage as he listened very carefully to the sound. The conversation grew clearer as the couple got closer to his house. Then they were just outside his door.

Then the talking became a little fainter. Then a little more faint. And fainter still as they walked past the man’s home. The man turned his attention back to what was in front of him. The bottle of nice bourbon was now empty and there were still two shot glasses set atop the table in the dining room.

A Silver Tongue

Spring, 2003

In all likelihood, this was the final straw. Deniet had flown to Toronto, spent 4 days there (one day longer than necessary or planned for), and returned to Seattle without briefing anyone from the accounts team; all without ever once meeting with the client. Jordan Deniet’s tenure at Lewis & Sedgwick had been a precarious one that his colleagues could never wrap their heads around.

In drunken moments, Jordan even confessed to some of his coworkers that he got the job in part by lying about his education. “I’ve never even set foot on the OSU campus!” then he busted out laughing. This latest scoffing of company policy was the crown jewel of his myriad transgressions, however: a huge client completely blown off and ignored.

Jordan strode into his superior’s office to discuss this latest brazen act of disregard without the slightest display of nerves.

“How is Toronto in the spring, Deniet? I’ve never had the opportunity to see it.” Hollins sarcastically inquired.

“Oh, just fine. Beautiful city. Charmingly international.” Jordan replied without skipping a beat.

“Yeah, I’m sure you had a great time. Lewis & Sedgwick footing the bill and all. I trust you stayed entertained, well-fed…drunk.”

“You know it Mr. Hollins.” Jordan said with a smirk, his right leg propped up on his left knee, fingers interlaced over his waist.

Hollins laughed and continued, “Deniet, I’m not going to ask you why you didn’t meet with Nathaniel, I don’t care. You’re gone and that’s a foregone conclusion. And I’m happy. Your book here at Lewis & Sedgwick is closed so there is, thank Christ, no need to try and figure out why you ignored a client with a 2.4 million dollar contract on his hands. Now that I can talk to you like the normal piece of shit that you are, I am curious, not as your former boss. I don’t know, think of me as someone you would talk to casually at a bar. What did you do in Toronto while you were supposed to be working? What could you have possibly been doing besides getting drunk on the company dollar?”

Jordan answered very dryly, “Toronto is a very nice city. I walked around a lot. In fact I was walking to Nathaniel’s hotel when I got sidetracked by a promising canal tour. After that, I just never bothered following up with him. Oh, and on Sunday the Sonics were scheduled to play the Raptors, so I stayed an extra day for that in case you were wondering.”

“I wasn’t.” Hollins replied. “You can leave now.”

As Deniet stood up to exit Hollins’ office, the phone rang. “There is a good chance that’s Mr. Lewis,” he said with his back turned as he left the office.

 

Fall, 2005

“I slept with another woman. In Toronto.” Jordan spoke these words to his wife’s back while she was busying herself in the kitchen. The statement was completely unprovoked. They hadn’t even been having a conversation. He simply stood up from his desk in the study, walked into the kitchen, and made his confession.

Mya heard the words, perked her head up, and stared forward while trying to process them. They didn’t seem to make sense in the order he had said them in. She turned around to see her husband standing in the doorway of the kitchen. He was looking directly into her eyes. Her husband of 8 years liked to joke but she could always tell when he was saying something in jest. When he was serious, he had a straight as an arrow gaze and an insensate expression on his face. This was the look he wore this moment. She could tell he wasn’t joking but she asked anyway, “You’re being serious?”

“Yes,” while he nodded his head shallowly.

“You slept with a woman in Toronto…that was at least 2 years ago and you’re telling me now?” She was still clinging to an iota of disbelief.

Jordan nodded his head silently this time. One of the only times his wife had ever seen him at a loss for words.

“Why are you telling me this now?” Mya asked.

“I don’t know. The guilt is getting to me I think.” he answered.

Mya remembered the work trip on which her loving husband’s infidelity supposedly occurred. Mainly because one or two weeks after he returned from it, he was promoted to head of accounts.

That night, Jordan slept on the couch while his wife lay in bed trying to figure out what all of this meant to her. She could barely believe it was true. He had acted perfectly normal for two years and showed no sign of dissatisfaction prior to the trip. No changes and certainly no inkling of an extra-marital affair. Her thoughts kept her from sleep. The fact that he was able to play it so cool for so long scared her. She didn’t know what to make of this news but the more she thought about it, the angrier she became.

All she knew is that she would make him leave; stay somewhere else first thing in the morning for as long as it took for her to decide what to do. While she lay awake in bed, Jordan crept into the room. She allowed him to sit on the bed and they talked for almost an hour.

Jordan talked in the same tone he used with Mya almost a decade ago when he convinced her that having children, at any point in their relationship was a mistake. He emphasized the word mistake. Mya knew the tone well as she played that conversation over and over again in her mind over the next 8 years. In that conversation 8 year ago he pointed out eloquently and in great detail all that would–he assured her that this was a certainty–go wrong if they had kids. And she was convinced.

He spent the rest of the night by her side, holding her. The next morning, he was still in the house. And the morning after that, and the morning after that. She hadn’t even made him pack his bags.

 

Summer, 1981

When Jordan came to he was being pushed from behind across a driveway into a connecting garage. A pair of large, rough hands held both his arms behind his back. The hands twisted his arm up toward his shoulder blade whenever he resisted. He became conscious into a thick brain haze. He must have been drugged with something because there was an acrid, chemical smell, totally unnatural, lingering in his nostrils. He looked up and saw the moon low in the sky. There were heavy footsteps behind him. Jordan shook his head trying to dispel the fog in his mind. He craned his neck over his shoulder to see who it was that was pushing him but a sharp, hard twist of his arm by the man corralling him put a stop to all that.

The man–the fog slowly burning off from consciousness…wait, 2 sets of footfalls–the two men prodded him into the fluorescent lit garage and forced him to sit in a chair in the center of it–all the while being careful to stay behind him. They obviously didn’t want their faces to be seen. Jordan was forcefully sat and his wrists were bound by–Jordan counted–4 zip ties behind his back.

“You’ve already made a mistake.” Jordan stated before the men could leave the garage. “You can’t be professionals, if there even is such a thing. It’s only been a few hours so we can’t be far from Seattle.” Jordan scrambled to recall his last memory. He quickly remembered walking home from school with his 6th grade classmate, a struggle, then nothing until regaining consciousness on the cold driveway. “My friend, the one I was walking with, say you, at least him, who knows how many others. I know I’m not far from home.”

Somehow, Jordan Deniet was able to grasp what was happening to him very quickly and when he did, an erstwhile dormant instinct rose to the proscenium of his mind: talk or die. Just keep talking. “Your hands are rough and this is a house a few hours away.” ‘Don’t say “maybe,” don’t be passive, state facts, make statements even if they aren’t completely true!’ The thoughts flashed across Jordan’s mind like neon marquee lighting displaying a play title and actors’ names. “A house a few hours outside of Seattle. Queen Anne, Capitol Hill, Colombia City, or Georgetown maybe.”

The men stood silent, hearing the words coming from this boy. “It’s cold, this garage is like all the other garages I’ve seen. Seattle! You’re from here, see!? A Seattle license plate!”

The men traced the line of sight of the boy’s head from behind. “God fucking…!” One of them exclaimed, seeing an old, loose license plate sticking out of some shelving.

“It ends in 6-4!” Jordan proclaimed. One of the men quickly yanked the plate form the shelf and then turned off the garage light.

“Shut up kid” one of the men said with an upwards inflection–a warning tone that implied that more words would result in physical assault.

“You are, you are from here, I can tell by your voice. This garage can fit 2 cars.” ‘More facts’ the thoughts flashed in Jordan’s mind. “I’m still alive. You guys aren’t killers. You’ve taken me for something that you need me alive for or else I would be dead already.”

“Don’t be so fucking sure!” One of them exclaimed. Then Jordan heard one of the men leave the garage.

“You’ve already made mistakes. This is probably the first time you’ve done this. I hear about kidnappers being caught on the news all the time. It’s common and they always get sent to prison for life or executed. You’ve already made mistakes and your bound to make more.” Jordan continued. He heard the other man return and frantically continued his rant. “The air is very cold and my parents already know I’m gone. You’ll make more mist-” He felt a rag shoved into his face from behind. The smell, the acrid chemical smell, this time 100 times stronger. He struggled under the large hand. Jordan felt a primal, screeching fear for a second and then nothingness.

When Jordan woke up, he was being shook to life by an old haggard-looking woman. He was lying, unharmed, on the bench of a bus stop. He shook his head wearily, barely hearing, and even less, comprehending the words of the old woman, who was obviously gravely concerned to see a young boy sleeping on a bus stop bench alone at the crack of dawn.

Jordan continued to ignore the words of the bewildered woman and looked up at the awning of the bus stop. It read “Powell & Hearth.” Jordan knew the streets. He was only a few miles from his home.

Lenkley: Chapter 2

It was Wednesday morning and Lenkley was riding the 72 bus from his rat-hole apartment in the garment district into the heart of Downtown Los Angeles to work. He lived above a warehouse style wholesale shop that sold potted plants of every variety. Every morning at 6AM he was awoken by the rolling aluminum gates that served as the store’s entrance. In the rear, large trucks and even louder truck drivers unloaded the day’s shipment of plants, cacti and other foliage. 6AM worked fine for Lenkley since he had to be in the office by 7:30. A natural alarm clock that eroded his sanity bit by bit every morning, but worked out in a practical sense. Between the blaring Mariachi music, the loud rusty gates being carelessly thrown up, and the cranking clutch of the Mack truck below, Terrence Lenkley had no need for an alarm clock.

He was dozing off on the bus with his forehead leaned up against the glass window, but he didn’t get too deep into slumber as the bus hit a particularly significant pothole in the road and bumped his head against the cold glass. Lenkley was pissed, but there was nothing to be done about it. They were passing through Skid Row and Lenkley watched as the bums sauntered out of their tents and began shakily shifting into hustle gear. The matter of the next high was to be attended. Where would the next $10 come from for their next hit? Theirs were crack-ravaged bodies that gave little credence to the blistering heat or the stinging cold. Lenkley always likened them to ascetic monks-denying their bodies comfort, oblivious to the outside world. The only difference, Lenkley thought, was the ultimate goal. One group sought Nirvana and the other sought a good hit. ‘Which was more noble?’ Lenkley thought to himself as the big orange Metro bus lumbered over the shitty road. One was temporary and one was questionable as to whether or not it could even be attained. Even if it were to be achieved, who was to say Nirvana was not also temporary?

Everyone is on drugs, Lenkley reasoned to himself. Everyone is just looking for temporary relief. That’s all life seems to be: the pursuit of a transitory break from a taxing reality. The strung out hobos were no worse than the corporate execs in the high-rise buildings who wheel and deal to make enough money so that they can afford the next high. Money makes them attractive to the women they cheat on their wives with. A big account here, a signing bonus there and you’ll be able to really woo the slut at the end of the bar at The Standard. And that’s the high, but once blow your load, where will you be? Face to face with the life you can’t stand and that eats away at you little by little everyday. Then its back to the office to play power ball and earn enough scratch for your next fix. Go ahead and pretend you are doing it for your wife, kids, and “a better life,” but I know different, Lenkley thought. I know what you love and its not your family, your career, or even the money-it’s the escape. The drug.

Lenkley was with them everyday as they rode the elevator together. But they were going all the way to the top of the building whereas he would be getting off somewhere near the middle. And they were all chasing the same thing.  Whether you rode the elevator all the way to the top or you parked cars in the dungeon, it was all the same. It was the same for Lenkley too who got off somewhere near the middle, and he hated that fact. The only thing worse than being a bum or being a self-diluted executive was being something in the middle. Street people and CEO’s had something strong and very defining in common: they both had made decisions about what they were going to be. The people getting off on the middle floors were ineffectual, timid types who kind of just drifted in the wind without putting up much resistance and making no defining decision as to who they were going to be. You have to admire the bums, Lenkley thought, because they had the bravery to face the streets, not give a fuck about societal norms, and seemingly care about nothing. You also have to give it to the old, stuffy farts in the corner offices for deciding that they were going to care about everything. Lenkley was somewhere in the middle. He had one foot in the corporate, material world and another firmly planted in the minimalist, Bohemian, I don’t give a fuck world. He was on the fence and was scared to jump off onto either side. He didn’t care about material things. One needed only to look at his apartment to know that. A single studio flat appointed with a futon, a T.V. tray that doubled as a dinner table and desk, a laptop, a second or third or fourth-hand coffee table from the Salvation Army, a mini-fridge, and a small plastic trash can. Lenkley really only wanted to make enough money to be left alone. At the end of the day, he was an extreme introvert.

After his father passed away of pancreatic cancer when he was 12, his housewife of a mother was left overwhelmed and embittered. His only sibling, an older sister, was incredibly attached to her father before he passed and she disconnected almost completely in the aftermath. The death rocked the Lenkley clan who lived too far away from extended family to get much support. His mother went to work as a bank teller to support the family but that left little time for her to monitor how the patriarchal loss was effecting young Terrence. Had she been afforded such time, she would notice more keenly how much Terrence was drawing further into himself and away from the outside world.   So much of Lenkley’s young life was spent alone watching T.V. and venturing into the greenbelt path that ran behind his Carson City, Nevada home. After watching cartoons that subliminally suggested violence against animals, young Terrance would wander out to the greenbelt in search of small rodents and other wild animals. If he was lucky, he could track down a rattlesnake and brain it with a ball-peen hammer or lure a racoon with a piece of bologna then strike it at the last second with a tire iron. These activities became a favorite pastime for young Terrence and he drew pride from the animal graveyard he amassed in the backyard that only he was aware of. At least, in this sense, he had some control over death. A control he had not had when his father passed. A fake control, but something that resembled it all the same. It comforted his developing mind. A psychologist would observe Lenkley at that age and determine that his obvious lack of empathy for the small animals he was savagely slaying suggests dangerous sociological detachment-no such psychologist was ever present in Lenkley’s life.

The bus was rattling through the mid-Wilshire district by the time Lenkley was through with his revelries. He was forced to ponder that which was immediate and pertinent. Namely, the U.S. Bank building in which he worked as a cold-caller for a marketing company. He hated his job but it was a means to an end. For the time being, Lenkley had no goals that extended past the next Gnostic mass when he would once again be in his element. Those masses were the only times Lenkley felt right. To say that he felt like himself in that dingy basement, rolling hard on a coupe good pills, would be an overstatement. Lenkley didn’t really know who he was, which, he figured, was a huge reason he was weak, timid, and indecisive in nature. Still, he felt that was where he wanted to be-hidden away from a culture he felt nothing but contempt for. Free to indulge in in the fantasies he was too modest to pursue in the surface world. He could not wait until the next Gnostic mass. He had a breakthrough of sorts at the last one, going to town on Bythos45. Now things were really getting tantalizing withe the Pistis Core. Now, Lenkley could put up with the droning of the pathetic old shithead that led each mass, knowing that on the other side of the sermon, he would be turned loose like he was in the greenbelt near his childhood home. And that, Lenkley reasoned as he entered an elevator with a group of suited worker-bees, was his drug. Completely unhinging was his narcotic of choice. Being free to act out what he suppressed on a daily, hourly basis, was his drug. He worked, he put on his corporate costume, rode a filthy bus down filthier streets to an office he had frequent fantasies about firebombing, and detached his higher brain to do a job that amounted to nothing, in order to be able to experience that release just one more time. An addict of the highest order.

The elevator bell rang and the digital display showed 14-Lenkley’s floor. The doors pulled open and Lenkley stepped out. The middle of the building. The middle of the road. Somewhere in between a prince and a pauper. Completely normal and unremarkable. But Lenkley could not suppress a mischievous smile as he stepped out onto the 14th floor. He knew that come the next gathering of the Pistis Core, he would be anything but ordinary. That was enough to get him through the week. It would be enough to resist the urge to start up another mass grave in his adult life.