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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 [+]

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