Tuesday, June 17, 2014

My Father's Mill

The smell of hot plastic reminds me of a Tennessee summer.
Like the way the “easy assembly” swimming pools smelled
when they first surfaced out of the box.
Right before they were planted on your lawn,
the neighborhood’s newest attraction.

A thousand tiny memories swim through my mind
As I lean there against the tarp covered pick-up.
My father drove a Ford.
And even though he paid for it,
He never let me forget I chose a Nissan.
Especially when it broke down.

Hence, why I’m standing here in heels and a blazer
baking in the sun.
Most people would assume that as an out and proud flamer
I might know a little bit about cars and their inner workings.
That is completely false.

Proven so by my blank stare.
The mechanic laughs as he toils over my carburetor
(I think.)
I let my mind drift off with the breeze.

For just a moment I’m back in my front yard
Handing wrenches and screwdrivers to my old man.
He finally stopped asking for them by name,
And resulted in a more practical form of communication.
“Can you get me the big one shaped like a crescent moon?”
“This big one? Or the other one.” I asked, uninterested.
I hand him what I think is correct.
Nine times out of ten I’m right. 

He sits on a five gallon bucket, and cranks another nut… or bolt…
I never could remember the difference.
His massive hands were covered black with dust and tar.
It always left his fingernails dirty at the dinner table.
At the time it made me turn up my nose.
Looking back now, I wish I knew someone who worked quite that hard.

I was annoyed to be there standing by his old pick-up.
I could think of a thousand other places I’d rather be.
The local pool with my girlfriend.
The river with my friends.

Instead, I waited impatiently beside him to finish changing a tire.
He needed help at the mill,
and that meant another two hours of blazing sun.

Finally back on the road, the dust swirled in the air behind us.
Dirt roads are telling in the sense that when you take them,
The rear view mirror shows the proof.
Never could sneak down an old dirt road.
Many times, I tried.

When we arrived at the gate, I climbed out of his F-150
And shuffled my feet over to the lock.
Stepping up onto the bar, I swung it open riding the steel wave.
Wind in my hair, it was the most fun I would have all day.

He yelled at me to hurry up, so I pulled down the tailgate
and drug my feet as we pulled through the lumber yard.
“It’s time for inventory.”, he tells me.
I hated inventory.

Inventory meant splinters and a forced fear of heights.
He led me to the furthest row of oak two-by-fours
And pointed to the ticket stapled to the top.
“Up you go. Read it off to me.”

I placed one hand above the next as I scaled the jagged stack of lumber.
Splinters dug themselves into my skin from my knuckles to underneath my fingernails.
The pain was fierce, but wasn’t quite enough to make me let go.
It was a long way down.

“Just keep your eyes on your foothold.”
“Nice and steady.”
“That’a girl.”

As I neared the top, some sixteen to eighteen feet in the air
I could feel my heart pounding.
The beat was so strong,
That I was certain it would ricochet through my body,
jerking me from the ledge.

My fingers ached as I held myself against the looming stack.
“5X4772” I whispered.
“Speak up, mouse.”
“5X4772” I choked out, a little louder.
“Read the last two again.”
“I said the last two numbers. Read the last two.”

As I tried to call out the remaining digits, I lost my concentration and my foot slipped.
My flailing body drug down the wood, scraping my shins and forearm.
I found myself plummeting towards the earth.
Expecting to meet certain death.
Instead, my father’s giant hand reached out and caught one of my arms.
It was enough to keep me from crashing to the ground.

He was a broad man, tall, with large shoulders.
From afar, he resembled a grizzly bear covered in stubbly fur.
Quiet by nature, he tended to speak only when necessary.
I suppose now it was.
“Close one. You gotta be more careful.” He said,
as if I hadn’t fallen from a near two-story building.

My heart pounded even faster now.
My shoulder ached from where he had caught me,
And despite the fact that my face hadn’t been mangled and nothing was broken
I was angry.

“I shouldn’t even be up there.” I cried.
Tears now streaming down my face.
 “Hey, you’re alright. It’s just a little scratch.” He insisted.
“Are you crazy? What kind of father sends their kid up there?”
I shouldn’t have reacted that way.
I should have been thankful that he grabbed me,
but adrenaline was rushing through my veins and out my lips.

He looked at me with sadness in his eyes.
Two heart attacks and five bypasses were the reason I was climbing.
Because his large hands could no longer hoist the weight of his once nimble body.
He wasn’t a man of many feelings, but I could read the guilt on his face.

“Wait in the truck.” He said to me.
I should have stayed.
I should have helped.
I should have been less angry.
My pride was hurt more than anything.
I had scaled barns, and trees, and never once hesitated.
It was only because I didn’t want to be there that I blamed him.

He never asked me to go back.
I would see his pick-up peel away, rolling slowly down that dirt road.
Spitting out dust and smoke behind it.
He would come home around dark, his eyes a reflection of the night sky.
He was weary.
Doing alone, the work that two could accomplish in half the time.
I never regretted leaving him to himself, until now.

He hasn’t worked in almost 10 years,
and the lumber mill has since shut down.
We don’t talk much anymore.
Not that we ever really did.
Sometimes I find that I’m still angry.
Lately, more at myself than him.
He is a simple man.
His entire life has been spent within a 45 mile radius,
And here I sit across the country, wondering why he never loved me.
At 25, I wish him a happy father’s day from California.
And he tells me thank you, but our voices trail off with little else to say.

It wasn’t until today that I finally accepted that he does love me.
the only way that he’s ever known how.
With brief stories about deer hunting, and how possums keep coming up in the yard.  
He showed me he loved me by taking me with him to the mill,
And trusted me to scale a looming stack of lumber.
He loved me by catching me when I fell.
He always caught me if I fell…

The man was nothing near a saint,
Nor was he a demon.
He never beat me.
Never cursed me without apology.
He isn’t a drunkard, or a cheat.
He sits quietly in his chair everyday,
Staring out the window… wishing he had done more with his life.
Even wishing that he loved us a little better.

Part of me wishes that he had too.
Then part of me is just thankful to have known a man like him.
One who worked from dusk ‘til dawn.
One who taught me how to drive a tractor,
And skin a deer.
Not that I ever really enjoyed either one,
But he took the time to show me how.

He might not have come to my ball games,
But every night he came home.
That’s more than some can say.

I love this man.
The one who didn’t learn how to use that word until I was 11.
My mother taught him.
She taught him with her touch, and her trust.
She taught him with her kindness, and good will.

And he taught me to thrive.
To push past immeasurable odds.
He is the reason that I couldn’t give up.
I didn’t know how to.
It wasn’t allowed.

Here’s to the father who loves me…
Even if I don’t know how to be loved.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Because of You

They say that you should always love what you do.
I agree, completely.
I’m good at many things.
Loving a woman seems to be one of my greatest accomplishments.

There’s something about the way their hair falls across their shoulders.
The way that they push you away, when really they just want to be held.
Something about the gentle touch of a woman’s hand when she caresses your skin.

See, women think about it.
The touch…
They want you to feel it the way that they do.

There’s something almost carnal about falling that we all desire.
Even if we know it might tear us apart.
That risk sends a rush through our bodies, and our mouths go dry.
Like the effect of  riding a roller coaster.
Only falling in love has a higher possibility of injury, and probably death rate.
Because we’ve all thought at one time or another, that a broken heart might kill us.

Like I said. I’m great at loving a woman.
I can spend hours on end lying next to her soft shallow breath while she's deep in peaceful sleep.
The taste that lips leave when they've parted your own is the sweetest that I've experienced so far.
They wait, slightly parted, as you move in.
Soft. Supple.
Air, no longer existing between.

I’m great at loving a woman. But I’ve never been good at hanging around.
Commitment to me is foreign, even when it lies gently across her back.
The morning’s light inching through.

In the wee hours of the morning, I pack up my things and I run.
Back to my own home sanctuary.
The bed filled with pillows and memories.
Too afraid that she might ask me to stay a little longer, or worse…
She might ask me to stay forever.

It is there in my bed that I tuck myself in. alone, to reflect upon the touch,
and the taste, and the sound…
But sometimes she sounds like rainfall.
Gently weeping, pouring down across my heart.

Because I’m great at loving a woman, but being in love escapes me.
It causes my chest to tighten, and my palms to sweat.
Love is fine, until she’s “in” it…
Then it’s over my head and out of my grasp.

And when I hear a knock on my door, I debate not to answer.
It’s not so wrong to pretend I’m not home, is it?
I mean, after all… part of me isn't.

Part of me is still 2,000 miles away.
With my back pressed firmly against your dorm room door,
crying, as I call out your name.

I was in love then.
I needed you.
So I thought.

Little did I know that your back was pressed against his chest, his hands around your thighs. 
Holding your body like it was his.
Like he had won it at a silent auction that I had heard nothing about.
And when he walked out to use the restroom, wearing no shirt or acknowledgement,
I felt sick.
Nausea swept over me like a new broomstick.
Had one been within reach I might have broken it across his perfectly symmetrical face.

Instead I rose to my feet.
I wiped the tears from my eyes, and I peered inside your 12x12 ft room.
You  sat there on your bed wearing nothing but a blanket and a blank stare.
You looked right through me with no remorse.

The tension hung in the air like a cloud of “fuck you’s”.
I told you then that you owned no part of me.
And I haven’t given any part of myself away since.

Instead I write poems and stories about how perfect love is.
I tell them to myself over and over, settling the urge to give in.
No story is ever more passionate than the ones that I’ve written.
No woman is ever more perfect that the girl in my dreams.
Until now.

It’s been five years, and I’ve still not fought as hard, or loved as hard as we did…
Nor have I wanted to.
But this girl sets my heart on fire.
Makes my breath start and stop on command.
This girl can make me quiver with the sound of her voice.
And her touch brings me to my knees.

She hasn’t left my mind since the day that we met.
Hasn’t left my heart since the night we first kissed.
And  she hasn’t a clue.
Nor will I tell her.

Because of you.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Other Side of Greatness

You bust your ass.
That’s what it takes.

Not this millennial bullshit where everyone wants to get rich, without actually doing anything.
Life is work.
Where’s your damn spirit?

If you don’t wake up every single day trying to do better, then what are you trying to do?
Four years I spent in a small town that was so small minded that my principal paddled me for being gay.
My mother sat in the room as he brought the board down across my oversized “men’s jeans” pockets.
That was the day that she realized my sexuality wasn’t the problem.
They were.

Their lack of compassion. Love. Understanding.
Tears rolled down her cheeks, and her anger rose.

My Senior yearbook quote read:
“Never live life to prove others wrong, only to prove yourself right.”
I guess even then I knew I would be ok. They could hurt my feelings, but they couldn’t break my spirit.

My mother wanted justice.
And she found it the day I walked across the stage with a BFA in Film from one of the finest women’s colleges in the Nation.
However, we didn’t do it in spite of them.

We did it because life is too short not to chase every dream you’ve ever had.
I packed up my entire life, moved across the nation, and pursued a career I didn’t actually know how to acquire.
That’s why you work. To learn. To grow.
To give your life meaning. To achieve something. Everything.
The point of life is to change your opinion. To test your limits.
And to be kind along the way.

Today a young woman emailed me asking if I could read something she had written.
She said she’s been reading my blog for over a year now.
I was honored.
The fact that I have gotten to share this journey with so many of you is incredible.

I started work at Warner Brothers on Monday.
It’s captivating.
The things that I’ve learned, seen, experienced… Even in four days.
My first day at lunch and I saw Hannah Montana’s TV brother getting Poquito Mas.
Thought about asking him for her number… but… decided I’d wait until I bumped into her somewhere on my own.
It’ll feel more natural.

This really nice guy explained to me how to place my order.
We struck up a conversation and he shared with me that he worked in film.
I asked if it was anything I might have heard of. His response?
“Maybe? Hunger games…?”

Sometimes I have to stand still and look up into the sky. Take a deep breath.
Just to prove to myself that I’m not dreaming.
I look forward to tomorrow.
To waking up to a job that makes sense. With script notes, and episode outlines, and daily cuts of footage.
My boss said to me today, “We’re a team here. We do this together.” 
It was one of the most powerful things that anyone has said to me before.  

Push yourself… You’re worth it.
And as soon as you start believing that, other people will too.
Go out there.

Prove yourself right, and I'll see you on the other side of greatness. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Honest Truth

I can’t feel the tips of my fingers.
I find that when I dart my eyes quickly side to side that I become dizzy.
And I know that I’m drunk, but I refuse to tell anyone.
I like to pretend that I had my last drink a few months ago, but that’s only what I tell people who don’t know any better.
No one likes to hear that you gave in when the going got tough.
No one likes to hear much of anything for that matter, unless they’re the topic.

We’re a selfish bunch, you know.
These people that I group myself with.
Hoping that I am amongst friends, but you never can tell.
I’m still high from the last drag I took in the car, but I can tell that I’m sobering up.
My eyes are weak, and this song gets longer each time it plays.
This desk sits neatly above my knees, keeping it all together.
Placing a self-imposed box around me.
It can’t cage my thoughts though.
My mind isn’t here.
Its off somewhere between the thighs of a woman, digging deeper with every breath.
Lying on the cold hard wood, I find that the grain pressed against my cheeks reminds me of my grandfather’s living room.
Splinters were temporary, but I had enough to make me lift my face off the ground.
The sound of my grandmother’s voice echoes down the hallways of my heart and she tells me “I’m her favorite”.
I know she’s telling the truth.
The other kids don’t talk to her the way that I do.
Or did, before she passed.

I just want to smoke.
To take another long deep hit from my dirty brown pipe, but there isn’t time nor is this the place.
I’m afraid they might frown upon a mid-day bake session.
Smoke lingering in the air like bad breath.
The kind of bad that a breath mint can’t help with.
I don’t really care however, so I stand, slide my keys in my pocket and head towards the elevator.
If I smoke now I’ll be high for one of the remaining three hours.
Not a bad ratio.
It’s better than being sober for all three.
The clock ticks, and I find myself waiting at the shaft.

She said that she wanted to see me, so who am I to deny her of that?
Besides, it feels good, and I haven’t felt good in a while.
If I don’t focus my vision too hard, I fade out, and in those moments I can see her lying naked on the bed.
Her eyes rolled into the back of her head, she bites on her bottom lip.
My arms pulling her thighs into my neck.
Her hands search for something to grasp, and her fingers find my hair.
She pulls, I pull back.
My tongue travels inside of her, and with a gasp she grows silent.
The elevator opens and I step inside.
I never expected to be wet somewhere below the second floor, but when my feet hit the garage pavement I am.
My cheeks flush and I hurry to the car.
I turn the key and Urbie Green spills through the speakers.
The sway of the Big Band fills my car like the smoke I’m about to inhale.
I sit for a moment, taking in the fumes of the music.
They fill my mind, each note vibrating off the last.
Three puffs later and my head leans gently against the rest.
This time she’s straddling me.
Completely naked, her skin covers mine.
She’s wet too.

I still can’t understand why she’s into me the way that she is.
Probably because I push her away.
She calls me strange and weird.
Complicated and complex.
Then asks me out to dinner on Friday.
She doesn’t have to buy me dinner to get laid, but I’m not sure how to tell her this so I smile and nod.
I’m a foodie after all.
The elevator dings behind me and I know I have to get back.
Someone probably has a package for me to deliver, or a story for me to hear.
It’s not rocket science, but I really ought to take it more seriously.

I’ve not been myself for the last few weeks.
I think it’s from rebelling against the old ball and chain.
Imagine. A lifetime together with one other person.
I hyperventilate even thinking about it.
Not to mention I’m high… the anxiety consumes me and I force myself to laugh.
Maybe I should cancel.
Maybe dinner is too much, too soon.

Or maybe I should go and not think about it and get her off.
Take some of the stress off her shoulders that she talked about last time.
I’m good at it after all.
By the fourth floor I realize I’m no longer wet.
Or I’ve gotten so used to it, I can’t feel it anymore.
It makes me feel a little dirty.
So unlike I used to be.
My phone vibrates.
My past is texting me.

“You know how you’ve always put me first and made me feel so wanted?”
I want to scream “Of course I know, you asshole. You know how you never did the same?”
But that’s not the role that I have taken, so I poetically respond with “Yes.”
“I want that. I’m impatient. She’s not there yet.” She says.
It’s just another stupid reminder that she never once felt a thing for me, but this girl loved the attention.
She wants to be wanted, and I still can’t help but oblige.
There’s just something about those eyes that held me on that bed in Michigan and suffocated my free will.
I’m far too high for this conversation, but I never could walk away when she needed me.
I remind her that she had that once and let it go.
I suggest that maybe she likes the chase instead.
“You’re right again.” She says.
“I often am.” I say.

For a moment all I can see is the way she looked at me.
Empty and hollow.
I wanted to find something there in her eyes, but there was nothing but space waiting to be filled up with lies and sex.
I wouldn’t go there.
I didn’t know how.
For the first time since I was sixteen my nerves got the better of me and I laid there in her bed, my hands to myself.
Her body, a foreign country, and I don’t speak any other language besides “hopeless romance.”
It’s different from the language of love. More pathetic.
Giving in I hold her.
Her head on my chest, I can almost hear her thinking about how she wished I were someone else.
Someone taller, maybe.

It’s crazy how an elevator can lift me out of reality.
Taking me all the way back to last June.
Dropping me off on a back porch in Gun Lake, looking out over the water.
As my feet carry me down the pier, I noticed the gum soles on her shoes.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen a pair like that.
Orange-brown. Dirty.
A lot like my pipe, but I doubt I could smoke those.
Something tells me leather and socks leave little to be desired.
When she tells me that she’s happy I made it, I want to believe her.
But the sadness in her voice tells me that she might not really mean it.
I doubt even she knows whether or not she does.
A year and a few tears later I say yes to a dinner I don’t really want so I can forget about the things that I do.
I take sex in the place of love, and a casual commitment in the form of an understanding.
I have something she wants, and she has something I need.
There’s just something about the scent of a woman that I never could walk away from.
I need it.
Like a drug, I need it.

As I step off the elevator, still high, I shake the sex from my eyes and walk back into the office.
Tucking my knees neatly back under the desk,
I wait… stoned out of my mind.