F*ck Sunshine

I’ve found playful meaning

in the sharpest strands of daylight

while they bleached my night tan

into a wholesome red and brown.

been stripped clean of the unwholesome.

The rasping, the choking, the decaying

scent of another moon laced night

spent chasing dragons down the streets.

In the silver kissed necklace of shadows

that roll menacingly beneath the stars

as a slipshod grasp on tenuous reality

falls away, fast as a bat, never to be caught.

Crawled out dusty and beaten by self

into the unwelcome openness of daytime

Where people have jobs and families

go do things and have fun of their choosing.

There’s always a sick, nasty bitterness

surrounding the way I’d look at the crowds.

In those moments when shame carries

the day and bitterness over the injustice,

of wounds septic and worsening, a brain

melting beneath the heat of inquisition.

A Cadillac of contempt would sit, shining

In the corneas of each purple smudged eye.

Letting the self-loathing and concern go awry,

masking envy as hate and desire as disgust,

riding panic and fear out as arrogance and disdain.

Patronizing seconds as the world creaks,

moans its way out of the decadence of night,

quickens into the tittering joy of form alive.

There’s no surface to touch and manipulate

no interface that allows for a connection across

to that other world imbued with shiny smiles

and unbroken teeth not doing unspeakable acts.

In those moments when the sickness begins,

wafting out of your skin to notify and alert

anyone caring to notice of your diseased being,

your lesser than status, your unworthiness.

Those are the defining moments that show

the defying strength and fortitude you want,

when you have the opportunity tell the world

“get fucked, piss off, I make the next choice.”

or reaffirm the skepticism pandering to your

apathetic acceptance of what life has become.

Those are the moments when the shear grit

required to simply gut out the next series

of bad decisions, knowing how much it will hurt

but owning it, owning that the deeper down

you crawl the higher it will feel at baseline.

When you finally disconnect from the grime

Long enough to breathe untainted air

Purified in the radiance of sunbeams

And the wealth of happiness that soaks

Summer days beneath the blue painted sky,

there is a startling awareness, an epiphany,

a closure to doubt and a recognition,

that sobering up is just getting high in a new way.

Clown Shoe Hustle

On with the show.

When I show up and use a prepaid debit card with borrowed funds and a big grin while spouting the sweetest “thank you” ever heard to the check-in lady–ignore the fact my clothes are second hand. Ignore that from a material standpoint, virtually everything I’m wearing is from homeless shelters, the YWCA, and the generosity of strangers and family. One of the necklaces I have on is from a cellmate when I was in jail, the other is a gift from my wife, neither ever comes off. A reminder of what awaits when my control slips, the other a reminder to be grateful for the people in my life who mean more than things–something I’ve consistently been terrible at remembering.

The suitcase I have has traveled more than 42 residence moves, endless hotels, the streets, and being encased in the coffin of my truck bed while filled with the only non-destroyed dress pairs of shoes I own. In point, the ones I’ll be wearing which are from a Goodwill purchased on my wedding day, another pair came from the local 7th Day Adventist thrift store on our bi-monthly free clothing visit. I once owned a brown, $700 pair of Italian handcrafted leather wingtips that fit around the cedar shoe trees as perfectly as my feet and sat in shoe bags so as not to be scuffed. These days, you’re more likely to see me wearing absurd Size 13 flip flops I accidentally purchased and for some reason couldn’t part with. I’m a size 10.5.

My bracelet was the first item I bought for myself when I moved to Oregon. It came at the same time as a pair of beautiful green earrings for my then new girlfriend. When I sued her for the return of my stuff it came to light that her mother had stolen them along with the cell phone I tried to return. That same woman kept my dress clothes and shoes I had put into storage, changed the lock, and had me trespassed from the property. That was a year ago and just like every other time I’d lost everything, I’ve gotten used to not having as much. The bracelet is banged up, missing insets and can be generally uncomfortable, but it’s mine and there are a host of memories attached to the feel of it’s rougher edges cutting into my wrist while I type on the computer.

That’s what it boils down to: memories–items, trinkets, keepsakes, notebooks, letters, a pair of socks, a favored t-shirt, a picture–everything is a memory unto itself in some sense. Those are what I miss more than anything as I find my recall to be less then lucid owing to the PTSD and schizoaffective bipolar. Like I’m fishtailing through a swimming pool of ideas more than memories in any sort of recognizable pattern. Concrete items help lock down specifics in a tactile fashion as though a smell conjuring up the taste of grandma’s sugar cookies.

Just like the suitcase I’ll drag to the elevator has the mental odor of a hundred hotels I stayed in with it when I was last a corporate man traveling the country by plane, train, and automobile. It remembers the blackout drinking, the shakes in the morning, desperate preparations in strange towns trying to banish the heebie-jeebies from my body in time to present rationally to the next client. New York City, Philadelphia, D.C., San Francisco, Detroit, Chicago, Nashville, Orlando, Raleigh, Baltimore, Rochester, Binghampton, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Denver, and every damn city in New England to boot. My bag remembers a time when we stayed at nice hotels and flew 1st class because we were Gold Elite or Platinum mileage members and had a reason to be going from point A to B that didn’t involve simply surviving for another day.

It remembers being filled with the stuffed pig I would take pictures of in all those cities to send home to my son and ex-wife to let them know I was thinking of them. Being crammed with apology gifts for when I hit it too hard and forgot to call home because I was passed out or indisposed with a drinks meeting that night.

I’m sure it remembers being stuffed in with everything I was allowed to salvage from the house when the divorce started. That was the storage unit, 10’10’ space packed full, that I used to sleep in some days when I was too beat. I would lay my head on it like a pillow and bungie cord the door shut since there was no lock on the inside.

Because it remembers those things, holds them in the toughened fabric sewn to it’s exterior and it’s still rolling wheels, I can still feel those moments as vibrant as they were when they happened.

When I get to the room, you won’t see the mixed look of shock and delight on my face when I lay down in a normal bed, or take a shower with hot water and comfortably dry off rather than contort in the space available at home or the local truck stop. You won’t see the delight when I shave, appreciating the joys of a full mirror and a counter to lay things on. The last sigh as I close my eyes in a fully darkened room without dogs barking, goats bleating, and crazy midnight dazed roosters crowing away convinced the stars must just be confused suns needing to be warned away.

Next time you’ll see me is catching the 6:45am shuttle to the training center. You won’t know this backstory either, this is my life story and while I’ll share it with the world proudly, I know when to keep certain things under wraps. After all, I’m back to being regarded as a competent adult male who knows his shit, and you know what, I do. For every moment of doubt that might materialize, or second of uncertainty edge its way through to rut against the fundamental sense of confidence I have to nurture daily–for every one of those moments I can recover with a sense of gratitude and awareness I once lacked. I do know my shit. I’m grateful to be able to say that comfortably, though I will always remain open to learning more.

This time I’m not going to feel like I shouldn’t be where I am. That the world was just messing with me, getting my goat by pretending that I was a real boy and letting me play dress up as an adult. I’ve paid my dues, and I know my intentions. I’m going into this with knowledge of myself, the good and the bad. I have a partner/wife who is behind me and supportive as I have never experienced. She deserves my undivided time and attention, I will not slip into the mentality of unappreciative disdain for others in lieu of burying myself in the job. I will maintain the vicious degree of honesty by which I live my life and the understated fact that I don’t change who I am for anybody–take me or leave me, I am enthusiastic, creative, weird as hell, and 100% genuine. Let’s see how that shakes out this time as I step back into the corporate sales world.

You will see a big smile, teeth perfectly aligned and shockingly intact despite decades of drug abuse, hair combed, suit jacket fitted precisely, shirt pressed, bracelet and watch sparkling, shoes polished and clean shaven with eyes glittering a million laughs and adventures into the air between us.

I’m happy to be there, I’m thrilled to meet you, and I’m actually excited for this challenge. Let’s get this show on the road, because I have a wife and dog who deserve to not be crammed into a broken down RV missing it’s ceiling where the water damage was worst, someone who never asks for much but has earned the right to be supported as she pursues her own dreams in education and life. People who believed in me and lent hands to repay, child-support to pay and an ex-wife to sue for access to my children so I can try to set things right with the ones who never did anything wrong or asked for anything more than to be loved. Friends to show that anything is possible, that it can be achieved, you can change your direction in life no matter how low down the ladder you have gone.

I might even buy a pair of size 10.5 flip flops if things go really well. But I would never get rid of the old clown shoes–after all, they have some stories to tell.

Barefoot Lottery Winner Injects Crack Cocaine

An ex-girlfriend stole my shoes once. By breaking in through the floor level hotel room window I was in while I was preoccupied with injecting another fifty units of liquefied crack and vinegar. I even came out when I heard the noise. All I was capable of doing however, was to stare blankly while trembling under the pressures of the locomotive that was my heart careening off the rails inside my head. Didn’t even say anything, just stared.

              It was a bizarre occurrence to be sure. I could only fuzzily sketch out how I had l had hefted her bodily not 30 minutes previously–out into the hallway following what was a reasonable argument taking on unreasonable levels. Now she was snaking out the window to my room dragging behind a pair of black and white Nikes that happened to be my only pair of shoes I had brought.

              Earlier that day I had seen my children for the first time in more than a year. At a supervision center I had ridden the buses and trains for eight hours to get to. Just one hour that I paid for out of pocket. They looked beautiful, he was handsome, she was angelic.

              Far more than I could take

              My ex-wife had structured things so as to ensure I would have to return to my old stomping grounds of New Bedford, MA and this dingy facility if I wanted any access to the kids at all. It was the same city I had desperately sought to get away from during my attempts to get sober. Aside from my children, there was nothing there but the grime and filth and needle strewn streets and shit memories and traumas and fuckups and locations and people I didn’t want or need anything to do with.

                 I had won $10,000 on a scratch it a few weeks before, something that I never thought would happen though I had kept gambling on them periodically for most of my adult life. I had started a new job a few months previously as well. I was living in a halfway house and had been there for nearly 6-months, longer than I had stayed anywhere in several years now. Things were upbeat with many reasons for optimism and putting nose to grindstone while enjoying some happiness for once.

                After seeing the kids I broke down. I knew how much of their absence in my life was my fault, both before and the recent inability to clean up my act.

                I checked into a hotel and managed to track down my ex-girlfriend.

                She was doing amazing, clean, signed up for school to become a certified drug and alcohol counselor—she was really putting the pieces of her life back together again.

                I don’t know if I showed up with the drugs to the hotel and met her, or ordered them after we got there. I do remember using the inside of a hardened blue glasses case as my mixing surface for the rocks. It was good stuff, probably should have just been smoking it, but once you progress to the needle it’s something of an end all be all.

                You mix crack with vinegar or another highly acidic agent to break it back down to water soluble form. I used Braggs Apple Cider with “The Mother” because it was rich in amino acids and somehow in my addled puddle of a brain that meant it was better to use for these particular purposes. That and it reminded me of making salad dressing at the home I had once owned.

                Shot after shot after shot, ringer after ringer after ringer. All she wanted to do was cuddle up and maybe read some of the book she was studying from with me.                

                Rock, vinegar, mix, pull-up, vein, red flash, push plunger, go lightheaded, gasp, nearly orgasm, fall slowly when short gulping air, wind up sitting on the edge of the bathtub shaking head to clear the spots from vision and WHUMWHUM from my ears, rubbing quickly inflating arms to try and minimize the swelling.

                Lost in and to a ritual, there was no mind being paid to anything else but the same rinse and repeat exercise as had just played.

                I realized things had escalated rather dramatically when the chocolate cake was flew past my head, She came at me with those sharpened nails of hers, tried to grab the drugs and throw them in the toilet. Failing that, my ears and face were a good enough post to thud into.. Holding her up against the wall so she would stop ripping at my face, getting spit in my eye before throwing her out into the hallway. I was callous and cruel and willfully ignoring the pointed reality of what I had been doing and how it must have felt to watch me self-destruct so viciously.

                Then she stole my shoes.

                I had smashed my cellphone earlier that evening in some bizarre fit of rage over something seemingly trivial. Thrown it so hard against the wall the mental housing of the iPhone had crumpled as the screen shattered.

                I used the hotel’s lobby phone to call a taxi who took me to get a pair of flip flops at a pharmacy and take me to the hospital for the cuts on my face. The idea of just grabbing some first aid for myself at the pharmacy never even crossed my mind. For quite some time I had become accustomed to just going to the hospital when things had gotten to be too much and I was dehydrated, or crazy from lack of sleep, or desperate for another rehab. It was second nature.

                They thought I was there for chest pains after taking my pulse rate. The EKG came back okay and they let it slide though.

                Eventually I made it back to the hotel.

                The wall in the bathroom was covered in chocolate cake, towels were laying all over the floor. I knew “it” was going to fall apart again with a twisting certainty in my gut born of seeing the same thing happen over and over. Different implosions, different actions at least—but the same result no matter what. Isolated, lonely, confused, ashamed and embarrassed, it never seemed to change.

                When I kept shooting coke for the next two days and had to resign my position I was barely even surprised.