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: Wednesday, December 18, 2002 :

the memories are fading

I can't write

I've been starin'
at a blank computer screen
for half-an-hour

I'm out of stuff to say

the way to phrase it--

I've recorded what I needed
said what was necessary
gained a certain degree of closure

so this is where the writing stops

besides--
I feel
normal
and what the hell
is there to write
about
normality?

except that it's good
healthy
and it took a helluva long time gettin' here

__________




8:14 PM [+]
: Sunday, December 15, 2002 :
I was tired
of the whole affair
the fragility
the mood swings
tired of seein'
destruction

I needed to save myself

so the decision
came
without
hesitation:

save money
get out
take a plane east

and figure the rest out later

anyway
what could I say
about New York?
except we were over
cold winters
humid summers
packed subways
callous crowds

it wasn't for me

besides
something told me
this was it
this marked the beginning...

just that voice
you sometimes catch
alone
at night
when you listen
real hard

instinct said
the journey
would bring
something
unusual

it did

so I counted the days
watched overhead planes
smiled at things foreign

and waited

till
that day
La Guardia airport:
when my father had a five dollar beer
my mother ate Chinese

and I remembered strange things

"Your father boasts about you all the time."
"About me?!"
"Uh huh. About you."


my father's friend
was only surprised
that I'd never known

No
I'd never known

Continental
Flight number 28
New York to Heathrow...

two diminishing figures waved
no-one cried
and I boarded the DC-10

not knowin'
that my father would bring me back

his death, anyway

four and a half years later

__________






10:40 PM [+]
: Wednesday, December 11, 2002 :
I make the call
reluctantly
to get news on the family

to hear
what the coroner said
concernin'

my father

'cuz when it happened
no-one knew--
it was a cardiac arrest
or choking
paramedics found a warm body
food lodged in his throat
and a steak dinner unfinished

my mother's voice
stops
--a shaky pause--

"Didn't you hear?"
"No."
"It's not good."
"What'd they say?"
"It's listed as an overdose."


I exhale
seconds pass

not my father

the words don't fit
it's in the arena of--
artists
musicians
junkies on street corners

not my father
not a Ph.D with a vaccine

it doesn't fit

But let me say this--

I'm not bein' honest
'cuz I remember when I knew
saw the effects of heroine
at the dinner table

saw him swayin' off his chair
fork suspended

saw him losin' his battle
with
life

I felt betrayed

funny how emotions work

why I felt
I should've known
should have had some say
in his decisions
to snort
dirt

should've noticed
durin' my self-indulgent college years
that my father
was self-destructin'

should've listened
talked
been there

but what would I say?

besides feelin' his pain
what would I say?

anyway
he despised pity
and I had so much of it

pity
for the times
his vomit sprayed the dinner table
the computer
the phone

pity
for the drugs
he needed
to function

pity
for the alcoholic stupors

I tried, once
mentioned a story
I'd heard
at Christmas
in an Italian restaurant
downtown
over pasta, wine, beer

a friend of a friend
had died--a heroine overdose
the body found
three days later
in a one-bedroom apartment
far north
in Vancouver

so the story
got repeated
over lunch
to my father
who ate in silence
and
said
nothing

(it didn't matter, he needed to hear it)

that was my part
to save him

and I did what I could

years later
when I realize
his story ends the same
it's not the overdose
that gets me

(a heroine overdose can be painless; you die drugged, numb)

it's the depression
the loneliness
the intense sadness
he endured
to get to that point
to get to...
" chronic amounts of cocaine, opiates, alcohol found in his body..."

No
the overdose doesn't get me--

I watched my father's suicide.


That's what gets me.


__________






7:59 PM [+]
: Tuesday, December 03, 2002 :
when I went to the monastery
it was to get away
meditate
figure out
where and
what I needed to do
next

the intention was to
make it a habit
pray with the cistercian monks
twice a year
find
a corner of the world
untouched
by
chaos

it never turned out that way

what I've got left
are memories
and a polaroid snapshot
of my room:
the cross above the bed
a desk
a lamp
a slanted ceiling
an envelope from
the abbey of the Genesee
dated January 20th
with directions from Michael
the assistant to the guestmaster

no one said anything
about my decision
to escape

across the table
the news
was met with
mild surprise

the perfuntory
"why?"
from my mother

(expected)

and
'I've always wanted to do that."
from my father

Really?

it's nothing to do with religion
for me
for my father

it's about solace
the silence
the inner reflection

like the world
stops
so
you
can
think

so I went
for both of us

took the 8:35 a.m greyhound
to Geneseo
goin' through
Binghamton
Geneva
Rochester

finishing off
at a payphone
in the back of the
Bronze Head Cafe
callin' Michael
to say I'd arrived

my room overlooked the woods
it snowed

and the degree
of inner peace
was
surreal

2:05 a.m
I was up
ready for prayer:
Vigils

No
to reiterate
I'm not religious
but this time
and only this time
prayer meant a hell-of-a-lot

the abbey
was a quarter of a mile down the road
in pitch blackness

it was economically unsound
to put up street-lights

I trudged
in snow
in darkness
guided by a flashlight

then got pulled in
by warmth
light
monks in white habits
black scapulars
silence

where had it started?
this fascination with
monastic life

It started before the readings:
Thomas Merton's autobiography
research on Trappist monks

It started with the chants
part of a music theory class
maybe
or the story I'd read
or possibly proposed to write

I don't remember

the details get fuzzy

either way
I was here
in a chapel
at 2:30 in the morning
chanting Psalm 119 XIX
listening to Father Francis read
Exodus, Chapter 19

knowing
that this experience
would become my first and last
would
become
memorable

it was strange
bein' there
runnin' the gamut of emotions:
rejuvenation
elation
exuberance
alienation
mild depression
moroseness

the self-analysis
got to be
overwhelming
this thing
you couldn't escape

the monastic retreat
provoked intense
introspection
inner thought

I came to a place
of realization
a) that a monastery was not for me
b) that self-love was crucial for spiritual and emotional progression

and I was not ready for either

so I left
while there was still snow

hopped the greyhound
back home
back to chaos
knowing I'd grown
learned
seen

knowing
if anything
I'd gained
by simply lookin'
at myself
to see what was there

the eight-hour bus ride home
got me thinkin'
about the huge
spiritual step I'd taken

it made me damn proud


In retrospect--
I hadn't even begun
to scratch the surface

__________



5:46 PM [+]
: Wednesday, November 27, 2002 :
it's never just naivete
that gets you caught
never just plain ignorance

it's the attraction for danger:
hittin' the accelerator
and prayin' you don't crash

so reflection tells me
my mother wanted it
must've understood
must've known
to some extent
that my father's edge
cut deeper
couldn't just be tamed
by a quiet voice
that
said
STOP

it's the classic case--
the raped virgin
the attraction for
danger
violence
anger
that warps into panic
when the danger turns inwards

the stupidity gets me
the lack of radar
that senses a reason
for the violence

the stupidity
that assumes
it'll get better

cure itself

stupidity
to avoid the questions--
why the drugs
the alcohol
the excesses

stupidity
to think love conquers all

it doesn't

the questions start
when you've stepped back
and allowed yourself
some kind of objectivity

when psychological survival's
no longer the issue

when you see similar sketches
of personalities you know
and understand how society's
analyzed them
judged them
categorized them

You finally have a reference

so it starts reluctantly
the blame

first
by way of defense:
naivete
inexperience
how could she have known?

then you learn to analyze
go over the gray areas
realize that for a biased
simplistic analysis
the explanation works

'cuz you love her
the explanation works

but you see the truth
even if it's years before
the acceptance

and the picture broadens
too many pointed fingers
too many gaps
leave you with the inevitable...

that my mother
shares the blame

and you come to terms
with the statement
repeatin' it over and over
feelin' the words

she watched
and did nothing

ignored the excesses
and said nothing

swept my father's addiction
into some corner
of her mind
where things collected
unattended

my brother is right

she had a choice

we didn't



That's what has made all the difference.

__________




8:24 PM [+]
: Tuesday, November 26, 2002 :
my father never said anything
about my black-out

never said anything
about the police station
or
the circumstances
leadin’
up to it

never asked about
the party I was headed for
somewhere in Long Island
or how I got sidetracked
to a car
where
coke and valium
were
mixed into
my drink

never mentioned
the phone-call
from the police
nor what they said--

that I was found
on the subway
and brought in

see I don't remember

'cuz the the night comes in flashes
scattered parts of a fragmented whole:
the car
the drugs
the motel
sex

the LIRR
the escalator leadin’ up to it
the vomit on the stairs
the train
a voice:
“Are you alright?”

nothin’ for a while

then--
different lights
the police station
two cops in front of me

“What are you on?”
“Alcohol.”
“Alcohol doesn’t do that. That’s drugs.”
“Coke. Valium. It was mixed in my drink.”


I've got left-over images
muddled memories:

my stuff--scattered on a desk
the questions
the call to my parents
the favor
(I'm underage but they let me go)

the cab
the cold
the vomit... again
this time, my father holdin' me up


I've always wondered
about my father's silence
whether it came from
trust
or
fear

trust--
that I'd go at it
alone
find my way
experience drugs
then drop it

hope--
that
the proclivity
for drugs and alcohol
wasn't the same

fear--
that certain statistics:
behavioral tendencies
passed on
could be accurate

either way
the silence
must've masked
worry
concern
hesitation for me
...for his own drug-use

must have got him
throwin' second looks
scrutinizin' my choices
my friends
the voices
on the other end of
received phone-calls

instinct tells me
it was trust
like he knew
just knew
that I was like him
but different

different
in the way
that mattered

instinct tells me
he didn't buy into statistics
'cuz his kids
seemed to have
a natural
distaste for heavy drugs

even so
that night goes unmentioned
like some shared secret
some flaw
covered up

I've always expected him
to say something
refer to it
ask out of pure curiosity

But he never did
never brought it up
never said a word


I wonder why.

__________



6:35 PM [+]
: Monday, November 18, 2002 :
They always said I was lucky

years after livin' here
they wrote
to say that in the past ten years
they'd have traded places with me
they'd have given
just about anything
to have tasted
some of those years

to have tasted
like it was some kind of
chef's tastin' menu
up for grabs

but they wouldn't
I know they wouldn't

over years
I wrote back
with a sort of arrogance
pride--

I was in the land of opportunity
I lived the life of sitcoms
Disney movies
the famed American life

so of course I was lucky

why wouldn't I be?

see
but I never told them
about the conditions
the one-bedroom apartment
the alcoholic's signature
the roaches--
so goddamned many
crawlin' in every available
space in our New York apartment

'cuz if I did
if I let slip the situation
then I wouldn't have lived
up to their perception

I wouldn't be lucky

it always crossed my mind
to say somethin'
mention it in passin'
maybe

a word or two
in the letters

and ocassionally I did
wrote
that is

told them
the reality behind the facade
told them
about the worst
years I'd ever lived

but the truth is
I never sent the letters
never got past the
closed envelope

'cuz
in my own way
I wanted
and needed
to be lucky

I'm past that
should be, anyway
and I think about tellin' them
email
letters
phone-calls

it'd be so easy

I figure
we're older
mature
we must have been through
similar experiences

we must have
lived

it's just a matter
of how much
and who's comparing?
so maybe
they'd understand

I envision the scenario
my friends
me
around a table
beer
cigarettes
laughter
as we trade the stories
share the experiences

our worst

figure out
how to laugh about it
dismiss it
categorize it
into
that
thing
called
life

sure
on quiet days
when I've reached a certain peace
I think about it

still--

there's that part of me
that can't talk
about the struggles
the grueling years

doesn't wanna seem
disadvantaged

so in the end
I keep the history brief
I managed... had some good times, bad times, who doesn't?
keep the memories
away
from
judgment

It's pride

I still wanna be considered lucky

__________



11:13 PM [+]

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