my story in fifty-something flashes

The boats and planes in my mobile all agreed that they should head somewhere together. So together they go nowhere. 

At least this horrid acolyte robe could make me feel less fat-kid conscious.

“Charge me two more broccoli crowns, the kid eats them riding in cart.”

His face wrinkles with giddy laughter at me as the organist repeats herself, “Let us now, try this section, again.”

That silvery, salt taste of a sourdough pretzel.

I’m in the maroon S10 snowplow with dad at a time of night I didn’t know existed. The street lights spray the flakes down in cones atop the shipping lot. The snow gathers the light from planet earth into the perfect grey-white noise.

Mother points us to the red felt board, the oblique caricatures less compelling than upstairs classroom of our rural Lutheran church.

Life is too delicate to tend fertile ground with a heavy hand.

No one can rob me of the security and freedom I feel in the echo of my parent’s laughter.

I got to use the secret side-door on Maundy Thursday.

I’m not sure which one of us asked, “do you want to be my friend?” But I know the other answered, “yeah, let’s be friends.” Maybe I was trying to escape something he was not, but fantasy became our shared reality.

For two boys with sticks for swords, the forest is a spiritual place.

I held a guitar for the first time in my sister’s third flood, Germantown apartment. It was one of those old, city building where the ceilings are high enough for your imagination to breath.

The guitar is now my familiar. Music is my dreamscape. 

“Dustin, I got another call from the neighbor—go take the keys out the tractor and the front loader. Pop-pop is joy-riding them up the street.”

“Imagine goosebumps are your spirit trying to break out and drag you back home.”

One hour pickup bed ride outside the Amazon: a drunk with a box a wine approached us out front of hostel and offered us communion.

“Son, I know we have different ways of seeing things. I’ll never understand all the choices you make.” This is a shitty pizza.

One fourteen hour flight: the oppression of personal detachment and complacency. One cramped two hour puddle jumper: the stuffy, stifling scent of humanity. “You can have this sauce, this one,” finger moving, “not this one—too hot for you—not this one.”

I uncovered unsterile humanity in a dark alley in Dar es Salaam where only mortals could dwell. We ate and drank the holy sacraments on the concrete altar. Profanity and consecration all collapsing in and burying my head.

The cold Canadian sun spilled thick honey on the rolling swathes of green reeds where the lake twisted around a small island. I set off alone in a canoe. As I approached the middle of the lake, the now unobstructed breeze heaved the water with frightening oscillations. In the center, the water was the black complex shade of its own depth. The worst part was that paradise was lackluster. Yeah, its just you and me now. Yeah, just you and me foreverA greased coin in a burglar’s dream.

Maybe going nowhere isn’t so bad.

Occasionally, I’d buy a bagel in the café at the bottom of the hill, pull my hood up and let the tears drip down my face as I ate quick between classes.

Take me back to the unlit alleyway.

“How’d you get here?” asked the demon.

I dodge the live-in res-admins, each day waking up by the time the two-hour parking clock started ticking and shuffle my car around.
“Do you have a car this weekend? Looking for a ride to the south-side.” A pinch of social clout is a nice supplement to my teal-blue escape hatchback—even though I hate this prick.

I told the dean, “I need to withdraw. I don’t belong here.” Oddly, she was the most sympathetic part of the whole process, almost like she wanted me to leave.

I counted all 17 slats suspending my roommate and his mattress above my head just about every night, only 90-something minutes from the shore line.

I’m standing on the edge of the world. In the middle of the night, I look out past the moonless waves. The dark, dense, depth smirks back. I could reach out and touch death—feel its salty chill alight the tips of my blistering ears. I left my socks and shows in the car. The wind wants to push me back to the street as I slide down the dunes. I go only only far enough to let the surge wash over my feet while the waves crash in the liquid void.

Oh God, I’m such a loser.

The saleswoman says to me, “hun, this is a ring for anniversary celebrations.”
But I tear up and tell her, “that’s okay, it’s the one.”

This isn’t working out.

“The brown ale and a bourbon, please.”

I know you expected it to happen, but its still got to be hard. I mean, your dad’s dead.”

Bye, bye now.

“…graduate with distinction,” they said. The one who couldn’t hide his reluctance caught me outside: “At the least your instincts are very good.” At the least he gave me that.

What’s your name?” “Dustin.” “Ah you were just ‘cryer at bar three.’ We figured it was something exotic like Noah.”

“He asked, ‘lemme get your artist’s name and number, I got a mural for him’ so I gave him your number.”

“So tell us Dustin, where do you see yourself in five to ten years? What is your long term plan? Your goals?”
“Well, to be a rockstar.”
We all laughed.

What is it that I’m missing?

He walks the unlit Dublin alley / lit cigarette in hand / his suspension and protection. / Who protects him from himself?

“It’s two-nil Scotland, come on then we’re watching the match upstairs. Do ye smoke?”
“No, no, I can’t I’ll get tested.”
“Damn your man’s a real killer then!”
“What’s your name?”
“Ah, like the Turkey, classic American name.”

He sits behind the bar, smokers cough and all, with that soft cocaine face and scars. He has drunk the pint in maybe one too many bars.

“Man, your name again?”
“Yeah, want a line then? At Hogmanay all mine is yours.”
“No, no, I’m blitzed. This paper needs submitted by midnight in Pennsylvania.”

Planning my escape, for life isn’t worth living entrenched. Does escape free the prisoner? Or destine one to flee forever?

“You’re very insightful Dustin, you can’t just drift into obscurity, people need to hear what you have to offer.”

A mind may be a terrible thing to waste, but a nimble mind is a pain in the neck.

“Yeah, with Dustin it’s always like restaurant quality food.”

Why does the world feel like cotton candy?

“Everybody knows Dustin loves being so Dutchie.”

Let me massage your mind.

“I always had this feeling, we were kids you know? And Dustin just knew how to do stuff.”

What starts wrong, stays wrong.

“You will do well,” the Sicilian sent words at me through steaming coming off his blue lighted pool, “Dustin, I have seen your work, you can do well for yourself.”

Pretty soon spaceship earth will run out of rocket fuel.

“I see you as a tastemaker.”
“Mmhm. What is ‘rugged urbane?'”

I’d prefer the world drain me of my blood and water than watch the cartoon world on repeat any longer.

“Dustin, all this time I believed my thoughts meant something.”

“So, this stuff really gets you down and dark, eh?”