I’ve been stumbling around in this really weird Half-Light World for a few weeks now. It’s kind of fitting that Autumn has finally started to draw her curtains on Summer – I just cannot seem to produce with the Sun hanging up in the sky. I’m coming to the conclusion that I am probably much more of a shadowperson than I will readily admit to.
I spend a ridiculous amount of my time throughout the day constructing things that never get completed. Sentence fragments hang in the air like a mist, only to evaporate by the time I actually get home to try and spend time nurturing them and bringing them to life. I sit at my desk at The Job daydreaming. Replaying memories and snippets of conversations from my past, putting them under a microscope to study their mitochondrial signatures. To search them for weapons of mass destruction. Sometimes I wish I could scoop these memories up and hold them close to my face, to breathe them into me.
The Cycle Of Haunting.
The Job requires that I rise early, to be there at an hour where I can start hitting the phones and get my shuck and jive on for people before they have their second cup of coffee. Cold-calling people in an industry that is slowly dying, what with so many unfinished buildings all over Brooklyn – Ghostly Tombs erected for Captains Of Industry that will never materialize. Constructs that will stand empty and cold, like a Soviet Dream.
This parallel is not coincidental.
I have the same hang-dog eyes. I make the same terrible guttural sound when clearing my airway of phlegm from smoking for far too many years. Waiting for the shower to reach an acceptable level of heat, I lean into the mirror, checking my eyes and face to make sure I am still me. I. Myself. Looking down at my hands as they struggle to hold my weight, I see the same wrinkles, weathered workaday creases next to similar scarring from long-forgotten pugnaciousness.
The Daily Inventory.
Enshrouded by the rising steam of the shower, I do my final check off for the symptom complex of my impending demise. Looking deep into the browns of my eyes, hunting for the tell-tale signs of yellowing from the shut-down of my liver. Opening my mouth wide and true to study the wall of my throat for a signal, searching for the larva of the first polyp. Prodding and pressing at my lymph nodes, fingering them for a hint of mass, for tumors.
Brushing my teeth in the shower, I feel around with my tongue, snake-like, blindly studying the make-up of the spongy tissue above my uvula. This is usually the part of The Exercise when the coughing fits begin. Choking on toothpaste and gasping for air, I try to hold myself steady in the stream of water. Submerging my head underneath the showerhead, pulling the steam into my face like smoke. I cough so hard. So hard that my balls ache. So hard that my ribs feel broken. So hard that I see little black spots in the ambient corners of my field of vision. My lungs spasm and contort, breaking loose the pollutants and the muck. I spit it into the drain, watching it sometimes sit right on top of it before the water erodes it away like soft earth in a downpour. It’s like a fucking death rattle.
Like his Death Rattle.
Standing on the train platform, surrounded by fellow commuters. My mind always drifts into these odd and terribly paranoid places. Do they know? Do they see me as I see me, as someone doomed to be a disease-ridden Gregor Samsa of sorts? I try not to look anyone in the eye. The people who cannot stand still, their milling about makes me boil. Why must they always circle me like vultures?
Riding the train, I still maintain distance – as much as one can when smashed together like cattle. Still, I wouldn’t have it any other way. This is my home. This is where I belong – I never should have been taken away from here. There are moments, fleeting, yet still emotionally crippling – where I see his face superimposed over that of a random commuter. These things, they happen. You cannot be touched by death in this manner and get away scot-free, without revisiting it.
The Job, the grind of it – it keeps me in a delusional place. The people I work with are good people. The people I work with are kindhearted and seemingly genuine. The people I work with all have a Secret History, just like me. Just like everyone who breathes the air, who stalks the ground – all of us with locked doors. The Job is a means to an end, a mostly-pleasant distraction with a monetary reward. The Job, at times, allows me the ability to wear a mask, to appear like everyone else. The people I call on the telephone cannot see that I am rubbing my feet together underneath my desk like a cricket, cornered. The people that I call on the phone cannot smell my anxious sweat. The hands that I shake in meetings do not know that I lay awake at night, fighting sleep and dreams.
So many empty buildings.
So many unfinished constructs.
Sitting at the desk in my office at home, I can see the skyline. Every night The Empire State Building glows a different color. Every night I can see the flickering lights of the buildings, the amber rising up into the starless sky. Every night as I sit down to write, I think about those days, the roles we all played. Sitting staring across rooftops, into the inky night of Manhattan. Looking across the courtyard into the open windows of neighbors, studying their patterns, witnessing their private movements.
As a child, I knew nothing of Death – it never touched me. But we are never not children to our parents, and the loss of both of mine has certainly touched me. Orphaned. Detached. Their deaths were years apart, but are held together by some form of connective tissue, like Siamese Twins – never fully separated.
I remember the first death so hazily. I was infused with so much raw emotion, so much self-righteous anger, that in retrospect it seems to have overshadowed the finality. His death, however, lingers. The intimacy of it all, the combat and the struggle – I cannot shake his ghost. I see him staring back at me in the mirror. I see his reflection in the sheen of a parked car as I walk by. I hear his voice wrapped around the timbre of my own. I feel him in my DNA, writhing and rising to bask in the light of me.
To say that these experiences haven’t shaped me would be a terrible lie. To not share them, to not write about them, would deprive me of the opportunity to unravel these knots, to identify these feelings. To not write about them would be wasteful. To not share them would be selfish.
To not write about them would be another empty building.