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store credit for the soul

Since my first death (we undergo several of these within our lifetimes as they forcefully usher us into maturity), I no longer saw my substitutions as a measure for survival. It seemed as though the act of surviving suggested a leverage over chaos, as if it had been an option. That choice was made for you, be it by a higher being or a peer. We only have as much common sense as we paid for, and it’s a self-service gas pump. It was a measure that disciplined me into prevailing. I wasn’t so much a survivalist as I was a prevailist.I was on the road and wouldn’t get off it lest blown-out tires or piss stops. I had plenty of sense in my tank to keep me on the road for a far as I could. My old man was to thank for the first death when he tried to drown me in the fourth grade; much was learned from his failure.

I won’t bore you with the details surrounding the drowning, so I’ll skip that part. I wasn’t taught something so silly like, “never give up,” with the intention to “fix” me with a fearlessness in life. It was more like the drowning had asphyxiated me with a fearlessness of death. That’s something one learns to come to terms with when one nears eighty years of age. Not a deluging baptism by your father with a can of cardinal red in his hand bequeathed to him by the king of beers at the age of eight. I wasn’t taught to fight the injustices that befall me, nor did I believe flapping and flailing would help -fighting, flapping, flailing most likely end in failure for everyone anyway, given they have the sensibility to fight only in fights where victory is feasible. I’ve outsmarted a few bullies in my reign on the playground and blackmailed a few employers… been doing that since I was eight. Another thing I learned from the deluge was how to embrace death with open arms. Death doesn’t play favorites, and even he gets ennui. I didn’t have any older role models or older wiser relatives to teach me otherwise. I saved myself from drowning and walked out of that stupid swimming pool myself. I never liked pool parties after that.

There was one relative I did have that was technically disqualified because she wasn’t related by blood. That’s not to say a relative must be related by blood. Incidentally, she was just the only one that came close to fitting in the bill. It was my grandmother, of whom I referred to as Gramma. She was the woman that raised my father, and she wasn’t genetically related to him either. She was related by chaos.

Gramma had been hospitalized from a simultaneous stroke and aneurysm the led to a full right-side paralysis of her body. Her memory was permanently impaired as her short-term memory bank had been completely robbed. The precious moments of her life were insured up to a year after the adoption of my father which meant all the transaction records of my brother’s, mother’s and my deposits into Gramma’s memory bank had been discarded. She had trouble retaining new memories. Lost them within days. My own memories said nothing else aside from Gramma having been a strong dedicated woman whom loved us very much.

She walked us (me, and my baby brother, Morris) to and from school, bought us pizza with what little money she had most every night -I had many memories of her and shared them with no one. Not once. I was suspected to have been too young to remember. Keeping them to myself wasn’t a choice. I’d wondered many times, in fact, whether divulging this information would resuscitate the Smolensk family. Then attempted it during one of our ever-silent dinners when I was 10. I was 10 years old the last time my family ate at the dinner table together. We remained hopelessly content with having to introduce ourselves to half of Gramma upon each visit. There existed cruel, eventful bags of poo that were never to be fully cleaned up the moment they’re ignited on our porches. These bad-mannered poos were forever wedged into the trenches of our soles to walk with us until our last step. The meaning of family stuck beneath the shoes of the Smolensk’s.

Gramma found my father on the streets in Czechoslovakia in his 13th year and forced to disavow her wealthy and insensate husband and snobbish children. She was 48 when offered a choice between her family or the second option, which she had chosen. She moved to Davenport, Iowa, as an old woman with a penniless name to raise my teenage father. The mysterious motives that empowered her justification to make such a manic decision will eternally elude my understanding. My father subserviently maintained bimonthly visits to her hospice since the doublefucked-up accident. During my visits, of which were numbered few, Gramma’s inability to recognize me remained adamant. This also led to her conviction of my having been a beautiful and healthy young lady, which was discovered when she verbally complimented me, and would remain her belief until I spoke. On several occasions this happened. Sometimes I neglected to speak at all and never accused of being rude for doing because upon hearing my voice, she became both appalled and ecstatic. She believed she had heard my father’s voice coming out of a young woman.

That comparison wasn’t the reason my visitations had ceased, despite my wishes for it. It’d have been easier. Nor was it the deleted files she no longer had of me. And it certainly wasn’t her calling me a beautiful young woman because I’d already been learned in tolerance of misogyny since grade school. It was her having no memory beyond my father’s 14th year, and was never able to recognize the man next to her bed as my father, despite the frequency of his visits.

He told her about his life, his girlfriend and their kids (mum and dad never married), her grandchildren, -the same story upon each bimonthly visit, sometimes more, as far as the story could go, for 14 years. I couldn’t watch that. As unfavorable as he was, I could see then, that his love I hardly saw transpired into this halved woman that raised him. I stopped going because I didn’t want to give him amnesty. Not for half a person. But I had a keen sense of empathy I picked up along the way. More so when I spent 2 years and 11 months dying. He’d been dying for 14 years. This kind of demise makes you take your soul back from the Lord and give him store credit. That kind of feverish demise that gives you the kind of pain that tempers the mightiest mettle.

A slow churning burn, perpetuating a kind of compressed incineration. The kind only intended to leave a forest charred of chlorophyl, so blackened, even the light must humanely avert their gaze as was left to the mercy of the taunting kiss of the wind. It singed inside your heart, the walls constantly lacerated then cauterized, and the love you have for this person was the taunting fuel supply. You let it burn you because you’re afraid this person would be extinguished, despite your knowing that to be illogical, but you’ve forgotten how to feel everything else besides the pain that was here, now, hoping, foolishly hoping you could be the one exception in time. A love that burns, and does nothing else. Day and night and day and night and day and night and repeat until you see a change. Until something changes. Or wait. For 3 years, knowing nothing could change, for as long as the burning continues to burn …until it doesn’t. You can stand no more, you listen no more to the crackling embers of your mettle and hear your thoughts coughing. “A love that continues to burn me down with despair, or the home of those that warm me up with hope?” You ask yourself. Because you realize there’s no one else there that could ask you, there’s no one else in that fire. You must ask yourself to demystify the motives to make your choice. My father chose to stay engulfed in despair for 14 years. He chose to see his mother than to see anyone else.

I could never distinguish whether that decision was indicative of his strength or stupidity, but a decision that damaged more people than necessary could only be selfish. A blind devotion to something that keeps people apart was a devotion that kept everyone apart. My devotion to substitutions like Autumn and whatever else, taught me be a part of everyone. I may not have had any dependable living relatives, but my Gramma didn’t need to have those memories she lost of me anymore as I would forever remember them for her, embodied within the annual visit of Autumn. I knew very early on that any chances of my growing up as a regular boy had been drowned when I was eight.

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There were better things to do than to feel upset over something I couldn’t control. I needed to regain my composure. I also needed to find better things to do. There was no way I could have predicted the morning sun to take a hot dump on me. Then, very calmly, I went to the bathroom to smoke a cigarette as I took a serious, sunny shit of my own.

There was no point in complaining. If we had been aboard an airline flight, then maybe. But we couldn’t to be upgraded into a better seat in life. There were the people like me: certain never to get out of coach. Bullshit is unsavory and ubiquitous -this is a fact- and it is and will be delivered fresh evermore. Even to first class. The shapes and smells were all from the same variety. A better seat on your flight furthest from any form of feces could never exist. Wrong flight if you believed otherwise. The turd’s transcendental tyranny threw the truth to those that were still alive: as long as their worlds’ continued ticking alongside their dreams, it’d still be full of the shit that riled us into kicking alongside our screams -construction of all worlds were erected on amorphous foundations of perpetuating poops. Your shit fueled life. ‘shit is all around me, it’s everywhere I go! if you’re really shittin’ me, come on and let it show!’ It’s foolish to be angry at the steaming glory of it. Someone who despised defecation confused me as much as a someone who loathed love. There was as much love as there was shit all over the world. passion’s a funny thing! best not to question it!

In the past, I would try frantically to avoid bullshit. I’d be lathered in feces quite often. Caked in crap. A tiered wedding cake of crap I couldn’t pop out of. I didn’t think I deserved anymore, naturally. Tried everything I could think of to avoid shit because it made me abhor living. Shit and life were one in the same. Both were mandatory. And both always tracked me down. It was the world bequeathed to me. This fact followed me everyday and everywhere. Bullshit and I were practically best buddies and it kept me too busy to make any real ones. Then, a strange epiphany came to me during one of our outings. A burning bag of a blessing, even. -I happened upon the sight of some old guy trying stomp out a flaming bag of poo.

There was a genuine fondness I had for the witnessing of clichés in real life. I remembered feeling as though nothing could have been more gratifying than watching the old guy’s shitty struggle.

stomps with such passion! kicking at it too! kicked the turd too far..? mail is thrown at it for recovery! good save! coupon catalogs! and a lingerie one too..? got a ton o’ mail! ..tons o’ shit to throw! at the shit! ain’t as easy as it looks! it takes skill! he spits at it! here and there! outta ammo…? boom! hot coffee comin’ through! beatin’ the bag with a shoe! his own! finally he brings out the trump card! the welcome mat! smoking turd, flattened! crap ain’t welcome! evicted!

It made me think of Benny Hill. I was still standing there watching him with my buddy. The old guy pulled out a cigarette, lit it, turned to me and gestured with his head as if to say, ‘what’s up, kid?’ I was trying to hold myself back from laughing. I didn’t think he’d have been too keen had my laughter escaped. Then he spoke,

The best thing to do is to leave it alone, unless it came in a bigger bag. It just burns itself out, otherwise,” he said exhaling the smoke. I stood frozen from the shock that he had said anything to me at all, then continued, “it was funnier for me to fight the shit… right? …I saw you watching, kid. It’s alright to laugh.” I stood there aghast with my own idiocy. Then something strange happened; a smile slowly erected on my miserable mug of a chubby face as one grew on the old guy’s. Then he began a contagious chuckle immediately infecting me and we both laughed. The old guy finished the rest of his cigarette back in the house, his porch still covered with shit. It was alright to laugh. Then I realized it was never a matter of whether or not bullshit was deserved.

It never singled me out. Shit is sporadic, shit’s spontaneous, shit’s feeble, shit’s fucked up; and it could happen to anyone. Everyone and everywhere. I learned to laugh at the sight of it. It’s everywhere. stink lines steaming from the scattered poo! From my humility, I salute the hilarity of nature. I salute the person who takes a dump in a paper bag. for those about to shit, I salute you!

The natural order had never once made a promise to anything. Never planned on it. no passion toward futile indulgences! The hopes and promises we’ve convinced ourselves to have, seemed no more significant than a flaming bag of poop. There weren’t any better seats than the one you’ve already had. By the poo. Best seat in the house. I giggled gleefully as an arresting aloofness floated to me like a helium balloon as I witnessed and realized the solitary certainty that morning. Good things can happen, bad things can happen, but something happens because nothing never happened, and you can always laugh, learn and or move on. This fecalosophy was smeared all along existence.

The odds rationally were never in your favor should you attempt to act on your repulsion to the spicy poo you were going to step in. Nor for the steamy poo you’d already stepped in. The poos weren’t leaving. Ever. They’re by the best seats and also by the shitty seats. Flaming bags of poos were essences in life, rewards -a life without poo had no flame. A flight without a first class. A game show without a prize. A joke that didn’t get a laugh. hour and a fucking half late! …ha! you sunny rascal! you and your sunny balls! It truly was alright to laugh.

Walking through the busy main street made me feel like a ghost. A ghoul that haunted the pavements watching everyone walk hurriedly in all directions, worriedly checking their watches. Time terrifies us though it is a terminal disease of which we’ve all been blessed. We make the most of each ticking moment, and never remember to treat it as if they were our last. Postponing the possibility of our last moments by stretching our yesterdays through a quick pace by constantly checking the clock. Learning from history was never a skill mankind could crochet into it’s web of life. We were crocheted to repeat ourselves.

I walked into the vintage store I’d recently begun to frequent. Something about old worn clothing seemed to have collections of bits of soul threaded into every button. There were brand name items on the racks every now and then, but I couldn’t care less about those. My generation was a collection of nic-nacs left over from preceding generations. Some of us knew that. Of who were the ones collectively conscious of their birth into the wrong decade. What little soul there was left in this salvaged new world, could be unearthed among the tattered trinkets from the days of old. This belief, silly or not, this was evident: this world didn’t need anymore shit to ignore.

[p.13-15. The Alexandrian Condor, book in progress.]

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