a memory

I am a shell, a gaunt, a wraith.  I am the memory of a man that was, and is not.

On the way home from the train, crossing the bridge on the footpath, a man was jerking off.  He hid behind a steel support beam so that no one would notice until they got close.  I blocked the view with a box I was carrying, but had to glance back to make sure he did not move closer.  As I glanced back, he moved into the center of the walkway, displaying his performance lewdly, a challenge.  I was far enough away to just keep walking.

It reminded me of something else.  It was hot and humid enough to break records, and my office was not adequately air conditioned.  I took a break and went to a large air-conditioned chain bookstore.  I browsed, asked an employee about the reading that night, bought a book.  Emerging into the bright sunlight and crowds on the sidewalk, somewhat refreshed, I headed back to work.  At the corner of the bookstore a man lay on the sidewalk, streams of khaki, sunglasses, and messenger bags flowing around him.  His white eyes bulged from his skin which was the color of deep dirt, bowling balls, ash.  His clothes in tatters, the remains of a polo shirt and khakis.  He lay face down, thrusting against the pavement.  Thousands of years ago men spilled their seed on the ground, hoping for fertility, for their family, for the crops.  Now there is only this concrete, this abrasive layer, impenetrable by tender flesh.  A flash of what must be happening to his skin against that sidewalk in my mind, dirt being ground into blood, I hurried on.

These men are images, images of hell, out of Bosch, of others, images and realities of the only hell that exists, the hell of men’s minds and the hell of this concrete steel monstrosity.  We are insignificant in the scope of what we have created.  This hell fills me, all footfalls on concrete, fingers only touching steel, or plastic.  It pushes out what was there when I came here, I vomit out myself to be force fed more of this.  I stumble home, an empty-eyed waste, the only thing telling my feet to move the beat playing in the plastic buds in my ears.

Even in this, my one joy, my soul only lives in the past.  Thirty year old music emulating hundred year old music.

Made sick by my addictions, I’ve started dreaming of you.

The beasts in me that I have kept chained, they have waited for so long, they hold up their chains, now decayed and broken.  They smile, and all I can see is the shine of their teeth.

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