Jitter #41

Morning Doubts

(Written Feb. 20, 2009)

Doubts creep in at morning,
greeting me with glee,
awake in quieter moments
to make their voices heard
over the traffic of the day.

Where am I going
and what have I done?

What am I doing
and where do I belong?

She presses herself closer
and I drown in her hair
for a moment
before oblivion comes
and steals her away again.

I can feel her sleeping.
Does she love me still?

I know how she felt
but how does she feel?

I study the foundations
for cracks,
knowing they’re there
since I put them there
with my dim, thoughtless hammer.

And I struggle to take
the world’s futile measure
with a small plastic ruler
I got once long ago
in a box of Cracker Jacks.

 

Jitter #40

Whispers in the Dark

(Written Feb. 15, 2008)

I hear a whisper in the dark
With you sleeping so near
Right where I always
Wanted you to be,
close to me.

It’s the sound of your heart
Whispering to mine
Beating together
Finally become one,
to be forever.

More than a touch
More than desire
More than a dalliance
More than either of us
could have imagined.

The longing’s still there
Though you’re here.
But changing, changed.
Never diminishing
never gone.

Stay with me now,
No matter where we are.
Stay in my heart and my soul
And my laughter and my life,
always part of me.

 

Jitter #39

I had an experience when I was young(ish) involving trying to share some music I was interested in with someone else that forever changed how I viewed such things, even though I didn’t have the words for it then. The incident itself is not too relevant. What I took away from it was.

It doesn’t matter if anyone else likes what I like.

That might seem a bit trite or obvious, and yet I have met people in my life who seem to need validation over issues of taste and preference.

Music. Food. Movies. TV shows. Even colors.

If you say you like “X” and I don’t happen to like it, I’ll just nod and maybe even offer some sort of positive comment, to acknowledge what you have said. I don’t have a need, even, to tell you that I don’t like it. You’re reaching out to me with something that is a part of you. Why would I want to inject negative energy into such a situation? If I happen to enjoy it as well, then we have made a connection, and we can take it from there. But if not… acknowledge and move on.

I have known people who will go to great lengths to tell me why they don’t like something, even when I have just said I enjoy it. This might sound a bit harsh, but, honestly, I don’t care. You don’t have to convince me of why you don’t like it. You don’t have to, perhaps, even try to convince me I shouldn’t like it. That is actually quite a conceit, to assume your personal taste is somehow superior to mine.

You don’t have to justify yourself.

Neither do I.

Personal tastes are just that: personal. They are subjective. There is no right or wrong. It baffles me when people get into arguments about subjective things. But human beings are funny that way. We have minds that analyze. We have the ability to reason and to express. And we also have the tendency to apply those things in situations that don’t make sense. You can say, “I like Coke.” If the other person likes Pepsi, does it make sense to argue about it? We can try to come up with “logical” reasons why, but at the end of the day, it’s just “I like it.” That’s good enough. And you can’t force that on someone else through rational argument, because it’s not a rational thing. It’s not reasoned.

We like what we like. We dislike what we dislike.

It just is what it is.

And any sort of rationalization is meaningless to someone else.

You don’t have to justify yourself.

And neither do I.

The best thing to do is celebrate the fact that we’re all unique, and our personal likes and dislikes are part of that uniqueness. It’s a thing to be embraced, not fought about. We can welcome other people’s thoughts, not attack them.

Because, at the end of the day, the person behind those likes and dislikes matters more than the likes and dislikes themselves. And to attack them is to attack the person.

Why do it?

Embrace your uniqueness. Relish the fact that you are different. Not in a good way or a bad way – but in a “you” way. Your personal tastes make you neither a better person nor a worse one. Don’t expect anyone else on the planet to like what you do. And be pleasantly surprised when they do. It’s a bonus, an added thing in common.

You don’t need to justify yourself.

And neither do I.

 

Jitter #37

(A story inspired by a strange thought I had one day, sitting behind someone on the bus.)

Pop

High up on the cliffs, looking out across the broad expanse of blue ocean, for just a moment Steve felt at peace. It was fleeting. It had only been a couple of weeks since everything in the world had gone wrong. So much had changed. So much was uncertain. Now, here, viewing the timeless majesty of something apart from himself and his problems, something greater, his own insignificance somehow was a comfort. No matter what might happen, something would carry on.

Soft footsteps in the gravel, and she was there, looking out beside him. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” She took his hand. It was a bit of a cliché, but it was also more than that.

He smiled. “Yes.” Then his smile faded as the wind blew his hair. He felt its motion, and with what he realized had become an annoying habit, he reached up and touched the back of his head.

The images returned in force.

The first person he saw pop that morning not long ago was in the supermarket. There were very few wandering the aisles so early, but sure enough, he turned the corner, and there was a woman coming down where he was heading up. As they drew close, he forced a smile and a nod, but she suddenly stopped, her eyes growing wide and vague.

Then the back of her head exploded, splashing red and other colors that Steve had never seen before all over the neatly stacked rows of pasta boxes and wholegrain rice. He remembered crying out involuntarily as her body crumpled to the ground, where she lay face down, the back of her head and all its contents gone.

The situation would have been inexplicable and horrific and taken all morning to deal with once the police arrived had the police actually arrived. It turns out they were too busy dealing with all the others.

When the checkout boy had come running to see what was happening, he too suddenly stopped mid-sentence: “What the hell happ-” Then his head went the same way, with that unique, sickening sound.

Steve had seen so many movies – a bullet to the brain, a red explosion – that his first thought was there must be a sniper. Later, when he realized the full extent of what was happening, he wished it had been that pedestrian.

There had been that woman who suddenly leaned out of a window above, crying in anguish, “My baby! Not my baby! Someone help, please…” She held a form draped in a bloody blanket. Somehow, that was the worse memory of all.

“You seem lost,” Carol said, eyeing him. The wind teasing her hair caressed his cheek, and for a moment, they were connected. “Good thoughts, I hope?” She forced a smile, but it didn’t last. “Sorry. I guess that’s a bit unreasonable these days.”

“No,” he said, giving her hand a squeeze. “We’ll have good thoughts again.”

She looked at him and shook her head, then turned away again without saying anything.

It wasn’t a sniper. It wasn’t a disease. It wasn’t anything anyone could understand. Strange faces on the evening news told the story. Over half the human population dead. Bodies lying in the streets. Car crashes. Airplanes falling from the sky. Old people, young, businessmen, children. Scientists around the world, the ones who were left, banded together to try to work out what was happening, with no success. People were simply, for no reason that anyone could work out, “popping.” The numbers had reduced to a trickle since then, but they hadn’t stopped. Some doubted they ever would.

She finally spoke. “How can we carry on? How can we live not knowing if we’ll be alive tomorrow or the day after or an hour from now? I could die before…” She caught her breath. “…before I finish this sentence. You could…” Words no longer sufficed. She turned and flung her arms around him. “I don’t want to lose you. And I don’t want to die. At least not like that.”

He tried the argument he had used on himself. “We could have died in an instant before. A stroke or heart attack or a car drives up on the sidewalk and runs us over. Every day could be our last.”

“But this is different.”

“Why?”

“Because now I believe it.”

So did he – every second of every minute of every freaking hour, wondering if his brain was about to decide it needed a change of scenery. His hand would now reach for the back of his head, though it was a futile gesture.

He no longer tried to argue. “When I thought about death before, it always seemed there’d be some kind of warning. Someone was diagnosed with something or something like that. People wasted way. But there was time to know and start to adjust, even if for only a few days. Now it’s just so… sudden.” He gazed back out over the water, wanting to escape beneath its surface. “And random.”

“I don’t know if you know, but I don’t want to sleep at night, knowing you might not…” Her gaze was deep, her eyes shining. “Then I do sleep, because I can’t fight it forever, and then I wake up with a start, and I’m sick looking beside me until I see you and see you’re ok.”

“At least we sleep facing each other now.” He smiled, wanting it to be a joke. But it wasn’t. “Come on.” He turned.

“Where?”

“Just somewhere.” What he really wanted was to walk toward the water and just keep walking. Out over the edge. The cliff was high enough, the rocks solid enough. Constant thoughts of death made him not want to die. Ironically, this new uncertainty made it almost impossible to live. He wasn’t sure yet which would win. He couldn’t think about tomorrow. Tomorrow meant nothing. If everyone else was like that, the human race was doomed.

They strolled along the cliff, arm in arm, not wanting to break the connection. They hadn’t gone far before they saw the body, with the splotch of red nearby. It hadn’t been there long.

They kept walking.

Cresting a slight ridge, they came across a group of people standing in a semicircle, facing someone leading them in prayer. They held rosary beads in their hand and intoned Hail Marys. The sound of multiple voices speaking in unison had a soothing, mesmerizing effect.

Then it came: that unique, sickening sound. That pop. The one leading them fell to the ground, her strings cut. The rest didn’t even pause. Their prayer was their focus, and they didn’t waver.

Steve wondered what they thought of all this. Some had said it was God calling people to Himself. Some said it was the rapture, just in another form than what people had expected. They even had a name for it: “the rupture.” He had never cared for that, for multiple reasons. One was there was no rhyme or reason to any of it. More than that, he just couldn’t believe God would use such a horrible method on His faithful.

Not that he had any better explanation.

Soon, neither wanted to walk any more, and they made their way back to their bikes. It would be an easier ride going home. Downhill all the way. They would pull their bikes into the garage beside their car, which they would most likely never drive again. It was too irresponsible. Sure, people had had strokes before while driving or heart attacks or some other sudden trauma where they veered into other cars or people walking along minding their own business. Death could come at any time. Any day could be your last, any minute.

But this was different.

Jitter #36

I saw a clip recently where someone being interviewed kept decrying a topic as “fake news”, despite the fact that what the interviewer was saying was undeniably true. And then suddenly it hit me. I’m not sure if this is the way it’s being used generally, but what I realized was that this person didn’t mean “fake news” in terms of “lies” or “false news”. They meant it in terms of “not news”. In other words, “It’s not worthy of our attention. It’s not really news.”

The emphasis was on whether it was news or not rather than whether it was true or not.

So I think at least sometimes when someone says “fake news”, what they mean is “something I don’t really think people should be getting upset about or even paying attention to.” It’s not denying the thing’s veracity but rather its significance.

Not so much a denunciation as a hand wave.

Which is a bit twisted, in my opinion.