Tuesday, May 26
Three nights running been around for the sunrise, and if I've only slept in my bed one night in the past week – well, it's probably both entirely and not all what you may think. What need is there to chunk time into days, anyways, and under this weather, all manner of delight and begging for adventure and merriment - under what circumstance could I refuse? Restfulness has never been much my style, not beside this living and playing.
So shenanigans: running from Craigslist bike lead to Craigslist bike lead, sure I'll find a worthy successor to Go-Go Gadget; closing down the bar & seeking out fights (I just wanna fuck something up, he says, trying to put his fist through a bus stop). Seems every time this particular group drinks, there's someone stupidly calling somebody a fag and somebody getting backed down and one of these times it'll be more than a Meathead Eddie whipping out a taser. I'll never understand this particular sort of primal, but so be it. And this even before cameras, those being such a dangerous thing when these boys will forever be twelve; there will always be opportunities for gratuitous nudity & ^#@%! shots. Take the boys out of the locker room, sure, but... beside memories of past runs and shenanigans, stories repeat until full circle; past re-becomes present. Of course this is (in)sanity – but then so is such a collection of miles, our cumulative tallies.
Or, wonder: the sun rising proudly orange through the fine haze of purples and bluish-gray and it'd be bedtime, maybe, if I hadn't other concerns. We're all coming together in the name of a friend clearly departed only in the physical, and those sun-kissed Idaho summers may be increasingly further behind us in years (four years since we've even talked!, she exclaims), but in such merry company, time's not a string but a ball, and we'll roll right along inside it, tumbling from all manner of past and present and future into laughter and smiles and all those hours that have threatened to take us before. We'll all fear the day these stories disappear, but of course they won't. Some magics are eternal, even if memories are not.
And fool's gold: back to the cities at ten, and sure, there's a race tomorrow and the reasonable thing would be sleep, but friend's first show of the summer, taking the stage in twenty, and when the bar's a mile and a half away, the timing's just too perfect. Bar's closing now, and the race is only twenty-five miles and five hours away, and 'why not?' is always such a dangerously enticing question. No matter have I of reasonable.
So pack loaded and two hands full of beverage beside, the night cool and crisp and springtime perfect, and soon enough there's nothing more than miles and the thin black snake of a trail before me and legs, one foot after another. There are few things more perfect than the silence of floating, theses differences - dreams & the real, ghosts & flesh and blood – more semantics than anything. Cotton wisp, I'll float off to Neverland any day now.
Another morning comes brilliant with the memorial, light wind in the cedars a requiem. It's only five; I'll have some time with the memories, and if the years have passed they'll still do nothing to dilute these memories of peaks and lakes and sweaty runs under the hot Idaho sun, will do nothing to diminish shared beers beside the Salmon and days spent in the backcountry discussing theology and philosophy and the nature of everything and nothing. Leopold and Berry and Emerson and Thoreau, that small cramped trailer and the wall tent, these places we called home? Oh, the days, they were good. How he would have laughed at this absurdity, of running to 'his' race, that merry full laugh of his, a whole body in a smile.
There's the race itself, of course, and if my half is respectable (amazing!, they say, heads shaking), I can't help but think of how he'd have laughed and laughed at one more night of foolishness – then replaced my top ten with a top three (if not the win) of his own. When a former teammate wins the full, the differences couldn't be more striking, but of course, that was the magic of those days, and even more so, of him, all the oddities and quirks and eccentricities. No saint, of course – but most times, close is damn near good enough, and all our memories are rosy with love beside these passed years.
Festivities, of course, will always find a way to derail this wistfulness, and that's just how it is. So festivities and shenanigans, indeed: a blowout the scale of which hasn't been seen in least a year, 'home-town-he-ro' and girls giggling exclaiming ohmygodthatsabeereverytwoseconds!. The champ, he'll hold it (always!), and if some fools never outgrow the frat house... well, there are worse things. There are the standards, of course – these parties always open with the grill and the beer bong and tippy cup, segue into drunken 'November Rain' and those poems (improvised night of, always); there will always be a few underage teens (and we'll all hope that none of them are former students of his), a few altogether too-willing cougars, runners and drunks, everything both normal and odd in between. Lord knows who's had what at this point, or even who matches what name, but seems there's a pirate bar in town and supposedly the yelling at the mic is rapping. Fools with forties and others brown-bagging it (because that's style, one says), and how the hell did this even happen, all these rounds? Several of us are double- or even triple-fisting if only because we're not embracing our annihilation quite so quick as the others and the drinks just keep coming, one after another; nursing several drinks makes it less likely we'll be given another. It'd be easy enough to plunge right into the center of the fireball, of course, mischief and mayhem and spontaneous combustion not a possibility but a near certainty – but by god seems perhaps I've developed some mild sense of restraint after all, and how odd it is to watch this from outside the epicenter. Still merry, sure, but maybe too old or too tired or too reflective (you think far too damn much, she says; and you think far too damn little, I'll retort; of course I forget her name and she remembers mine, an uneven slur on drunk lips) and it's sad and beautiful and somehow perfect too, all broken bottles and spilled beer and interest both sexual and feigned; a giant summer stew, all this simmering in folly reduced to basics.
Seems no matter the failures and losses surrounding – stolen bike (30,000 miles!), friends' layoffs, broken bodies we may never quite escape – these days can't help but find themselves tinged with greatness: starlight and sunshine and riding the moon beam of glorious evening after glorious evening. Every track runs out eventually I suppose, but I'll gladly ride this one a bit longer. Instinct tells me he'd have done the same.
Monday, May 18
Weekends like this Minnesotans forget how temperamental their state truly is, how fickle her moods and how often her behavior runs ugly, be it winds or cold or humidity. Weekends like this we all find ourselves in love again, the city aglow with fools in want of a sunburn, bikers and runners lining the lakes, all these families and happy strangers and friends. A million greens stand full and proud, and the Mississippi has not yet regained her summer stench; without the foul scent to give her away, we'll play romantic, fool ourselves into thinking she's a muddy beauty, glorious in her placid ways.
And in such beauty, on days that find their voice cracking, Spring's adolescence blossoming into Summer's foolishness – beer on beaches and in backyards; bonfires and sizzling grills; miles of trails run and wheels turning over under the prairie sun – on days such as this, it's impossible not to forgive and forget. Days like this, the breakdown is only half the beauty, the sum so far exceeding the whole.
He's graduating, finally, and both of us moving, all these boxes and bags and furnitures, and sure I'd once imagined, then hoped, to see all these pieces of a life before much more used, a life shared, but then – oh, no matter. Forgetting may be impossible, but still, if the quality of a day is in part measured by the filling of her hours, then for sure, how could the days get any better? Aches will pile up, delightfully full, a new breath in the pulse of each tired joint; strung between these bones the glee of days both past and to come. The sun is shining and Idaho peaks are in want of climbing and there's so much to do! And here, among the empty hardwood floors... well, the barer the space, perhaps the better, all the more reasons to find myself out and about, firmly in the present. Stuff I have no need of; simplicity is the warm sun and moving legs. 'I've never seen you this happy,' he says, and in the years we've known each other, I know he speaks truth, won't mince words: I've no reason to smile but every reason under a shining sun, a litany in every lovely mile and psalm in every friendly laugh. What need have I of a heaven with all this living already in front of me?
Saturdays for making new friends, Sundays for eighty mile rides and twenty mile runs; all these weekdays for far too little sleep, and every sunny chance to fall in love with a stranger – and if any of these are my downfall, any of them a reason to be caught dancing beneath the stars, running barefoot beside the pines, swinging on the few tree branches I can reach, climbing whatever will afford me the chance... well, in those cases, what defense isn't legit? Some things are simply right, legalities and all that be damned.
Falling out of bed each morning has such deliciousness, crawling to the droning alarm – sure all this going has me sleeping hard, but with so much to look forward to, I'll rise easily enough. These aches are a pride, the surest sign of living I know. Certainly there are other ways, or so I've heard, but I prefer my world physical and immediate, simple and in front of me – in such a world, nothing is surer than the glories of miles run and biked and rocks climbed and hills clambered and trees swung from.
Point: what love I have for her, so sure this beautiful stranger is in trying to destroy me and so sure I am in trying to hold on, pedaling as hard as these legs know how. Fifteen minutes, twenty, a half-hour, and fly, fly, fly and sure, for a moment I panic, thinking of what this is going to feel like when I finally crack, come unhinged, but having never been broken by a woman, I resolve this won't be the first, eyes ahead. If it didn't hurt so, what a sight it would be... but, even if some things can still be appreciated from outside consciousness, I'm too many kinds of hurt to fully enjoy. Still... those legs, teardrop calves and wiry explosion! Triathlete, certain, best parts runner and best parts biker and oh god if this didn't hurt so much and sure my tires are a little soft and her bike is so much nicer but jeesus we are flying and no doubt I've never ridden this hard for this long... certainly I'm going to die and what a glorious way to go and the looks on all those other faces as we fly by...
We stop once, briefly at an intersection, still nearly two traffic statistics, and she smiles a hundred megawatt smile, a real beauty, and I smile and we both see the barely contained strain in the other's face, we're both dying, maybe already dead, then oh gawd there's a gap, slight sure, and she's off, a rocket straight from Venus, clipped in and bent down, ass up and powering off, and so, nothing more than a smile passed and I'm back in chase. Twelve miles we play this game, she powering just ahead until her legs start faltering and I will myself to close the gap again; back down her head goes, driving driving driving, and so the cycle keeps repeating; college long runs and hill repeats all over again, and how we broke each other then, surest way we knew to run, and by god, this game is just as fantastic as I remember. Finally, the trail splits; she continues east and I fork south... stopped then for a light, the rebellion is rising, calves to quads and hamstrings to chest all bile and lightheadedness and I am sick, sick, sick – and those poor families beside the trail. Eyes spin, pulse thunders mad, limbs turned lead; staying out of the sickly and freshly wet grass is such a terrible difficulty.
Back on the bike oh so slowly, miles of trials and trials of miles yet to go, trying to find my legs again underneath me, slowly spinning, struggling to even stay upright... and back she comes, herself a mirror image of death on two wheels, her own legs barely moving. Sure, I think, she broke me, but she's just as broken, and I'll find no shame in that. The weakest of smiles exchanged, nods of mutual respect, and sure as she rode up behind me she's headed back to the city. Sixty miles yet to ride and too dead to speak beside, I let her go.
Beauty and the breakdown, the sun a perfect benediction between lakes, and these legs will forever remember their greatest skill, namely undercutting the rest of me, reuniting dust with dust. Nothing if not thorough, this is who I am, masochist sure, and so the ride continues, as roughly planned. Twenty miles of trail running for a later dessert, and sure I'll ache, and sure I haven't the time for these dalliances, not really, with all these curriculum rewrites and lesson plans and project edits, but what joy! I'll sleep when the world does, when the sun hides and the stars don't shine and the love runs out. There's too much play to lay silent, still.
It's getting better all the time
Monday, May 11
Seems the better I get to know you, the less respect I have for you, and perhaps this is the saddest sort of familiarity of all, when all your actions point to a popularity contest you'll never win. It is what it is, of course, straight no chaser. I'll take my vodka warm; all edges, and there's no need to sand them down. Dreams break themselves just fine without our help, thanks for asking.
Another way: it all speeds by, reckless even, and if a 3:59 mile is fast on the track, he's scarily faster on the road, a breeze in his wake, and when last place is a 4:21 – well, grab life by the waist, pull her in hard, this pretty damsel's fleeting and ideas'll ever run away with logic, quick quick. Moving again, twice in the next three months, but what of it? Glory's nothing more than trying enough things, maybe, then hushing up the failures. Or so one can hope; I'm certainly piling on the attempts.
Or: this temptress's such a lover, all promise and ugly morning's after, all reconstruction in the wake of the storm. But those eyes, calm amidst the chaos, have such allure I can't ever help but dance in them, and who hasn't decided they needed a haircut at one in the morning? The bigger differences, of course, always lay in the doing, in the done. So I do. Some things can't be helped.
These lunchtime conversations wind, sometimes serious, sometimes joking; I've stopped taking lunch in my classroom, told I'd burn out doing so, told I needed to give myself some breaks, but this? Here, now? This may or may not be an upgrade. Half what we do, it seems, is complain. 'They've been so bad this week,' we parrot, but if we say it every week... well, you get the idea; not just the students are closing down with the school. Sure, these are the forgotten shadows, the lost and nameless, the forever not missed – but we know their names, and we know how they'll disappear, how wheels turn over generation to generation, and we're hurt too. Many will drop out; more than a few already have, upon realizing this year won't garner a diploma, unwilling to give it yet another go at yet another school. Call it a money decision, sure, but we were the furthest in the black. Cynical, then: removing the last defenses obviously makes a community stronger. It takes a village to raise a child, so throw the bad ones out: less work that way. Or: shadows don't scream like the moneyed folk when you put one more board in front of their dreams.
I'm a little bitter, sure, but two years, two schools closed, and they can't imagine why I'm leaving something I obviously love, even if that love may be half masochism. So easy it could be to forget that there are always other loves, but this attention span is too damn short to let me, to not explore and play and try something new.
So move on I will. All the way to the four papers due tomorrow (all barely begun), this project too, vocab packets and a test to write besides. I'll start thinking about the summer end of May, maybe, and dreaming in earnest of Idaho peaks sometime after that.
All these codes in want of cracking, and of course it'd be the ones least practical I'm best with. Perfect score and all that, and sure there are reasons to celebrate, but it means so little when it's the kind of code that only applies to the trivial: big in the moment, and so small in the larger context. There are so many other codes I'd prefer to break, like perhaps polite society (having already mastered crass and awkward), but isn't that how it is, always better at the things we prefer less.
And it's better I live in a climate only forgivable a few months of each year, given how I harass each and every hour of those sunblessed days. Who could sleep when there's all this to explore, all these glories in which to explode, days to firebomb full with sweat and blisters and friends and food and drink? The hours are simply too few, cannot contain me. Had I the power, oh the extra hours I'd dream up! 'You only text when you're drinking,' she says, but it's not as if that means we don't stay in touch, and really, with the weather nice, how rare it is I'll sit. There are miles and miles ahead; I'll greedily have them all. A bike ride to Canada isn't so absurd; nor, for that matter, is a trek to Idaho. 'In the history of terrible ideas...' I'll consistently have more. Some wells know no drought.
And fitting really, because aren't we're all just dying for these glorious failures? I'd like to think I'm simply better at embracing the breakdown, blending the real and dreamt into one fine blaze. Excuse the vanity, if you dare; we've all got our peculiar prides, and obviously this is one of mine.
Coming back around: no matter what I may think now, you're bound to get more chances. Place your bets, sure, but I tumble in and out of infatuation too damn easily not to see you back in favor. End of May's just around the corner, besides.
Image: Victorov Aleksei
Monday, May 4
'Do you enjoy this as much as I do,' she asks, and I don't admit it aloud, but what a strange question, regarding what's become one of the highlights of the week; long miles and the dirty trail and easy chatter, and these Saturdays may yet find me turned to rubble (up to thirty-two for the long run now; next week she wants to go twenty, which likely means near forty for me, the way this madman math works). But, there's ever beauty in the breakdown, and this here's one damn fine example.
Thirty-eight miles run and five plus hours biked, and now the music a perfect heartbeat running through these tattered legs. The more I destroy, the more I come alive, be it the refining fires of miles run or biked or faces climbed, and my god, that Thursday in Portland will forever be a fine memory. Complete annihilation is such a tune unlike any other: inside every neural arc, a hundred million dancing ants; inside every axial fiber, the fire of god; inside every red blood cell, a universe burst wide with potential, rapture, joy. Spontaneous self-combustion is just a matter of waiting now.
'Hey, I'm forty,' she says, her version of a defense, and yeah, the music courses inside us all, but she's grabbed my ass twice now – and given the miles, no wonder I'm a little tender. I'll give her the worst these eyes are capable of, but that doesn't count for much when you're laughing too. Josh just laughs, giddy, and the music plays, and only on an evening such as this can the woman beside tell me of the three babies she's lost, how her connection to the band is these pains eerily similar and somehow beautiful too, and my heart will shatter and mend, expand and condense. We'll share a moment, sure, but I still won't give her the slow dance she requests, her husband off for another drink.
Bass rolls through my trembling knees and shaking fingers, pulse on top of pulse. Josh's face is pure rapture, and when it's not, he's busy flirting with a girl he won't make much of a pass at, but no matter; we're all in love, that's the word, all together in this altogether wonderful evening, lights and painting and indie rapture.
So its two and I've ground myself hips down to nothing more than meat paste, eyes and arms only minimally more functional, senses both heightened and dulled, everything hard edges. Started raining, beside - and yet, my first thought is of what a glorious night for a run, just me and the clouds and mist and softly lit empty streets. Even as my pulse won't drop below a hundred (damn that red bull and mountain dew) and my legs won't stop twitching (damn broken sinews) and my fingers won't stop shaking (hmm...), even as I struggle with basic functions – like, say, sitting – push, push, push, an expanding wonder that maybe we're nothing more than the walls we butt our heads against. Sure, the second thought is a month long nap, this fatigue washing over in great crashing waves, but here is the moment, no future greater than here and now – of course the run wins. Four miles, for forty-two on the day, a hundred and ten on the week, that in five days and one off.
Change the perspective, and there's a smile in every grimace, you know, but something is clearly wrong with me. Even as I know it, though, lord knows I haven't much a care. No stop, transatlantic, this train's full bore on, life ever in the living, and by god, these days sure are full.
Maybe this is something in and of itself, but my music seems less taking the moment by jolly storm, more the middle of the maelstrom, a symphony of probably shouldn'ts and if only I wouldn'ts. Habits are just habits, of course, and there's always the potential for change, but then what? Maybe I prefer the same poor choices repeated as regular as the moon, clockwork like tides, an adventure in every one. The sea's always rising, isn't it, and the sun's always setting, if only to wake again the morning after.
Seems the more words I offer the less I say, and I'm not sure what I'd even do were I completely here, in one altogether together. Fragments of a million wholes make for a life plenty full enough.