“Tramps For Life, episode 3”
(Or: Even Rebels Get Sad When They Have to Be Bad but all in all there’s nothing worse than having Jungle Fever on the road, broke and homeless, and trying to up the ante)
the cold rain
upon the roof of the car.
The car that is not yours.
And your homeless heart flinches in that way only a newly-dispossessed person’s heart flutters and aches and cold-lip-dry-mouth-cracked-chapped hands open the passenger door, but you notice – on the floor, under those worn out boots barely covering your feet which you are nervous has caught an infection – a text, a crumpled magazine…and the printed word on that filth, the alignment and the rhythms, calm you…Because they were written by someone even more destitute than you and you no longer have to dread and shudder your way three stops on the N train amidst Hipsters who come from some place no real New Yorker has ever heard of, and yet your ignorance bounds you…But you read the text and you realize it is just the thing to read when you are in someone else’s bathroom and the floor is cold and you cannot complain because it is not your home, and you wonder where your home went and how it came to…
You did everything possible without breaking any laws, yet every moral code that you ever tried to live by has been left shattered and torn.
Your reputation – skids marks under Cassio’s heel; your name has been warped and twisted like the heart of a Judge who refuses to resign.
You ask yourself why? And you see fleeting images of who you could have been and phantasmagoric duplicates of you and your lady and yet you wonder…what was the sin?
Like the disabled and the forsaken, you, too, cast an eye up to the sky in hopes of an answer…There is no answer. The answer was known, was given – long ago.
And it is not his or her or their fault.
It is some
“It’s not that I dislike children – it’s what they might become. If I had to bear witness to my child’s lack of success I’m not sure I’d be able to handle it. I barely handle my own.”
She laughed, she thought he was being cute. But there was nothing cute about his situation. There was nothing cute about being caught, once again, in the rut trying to keep up, stay sane. He was beyond trying to be witty and he saw nothing admirable or clever about his choice of words or how coolly detached she thought he was. He was not cool and not detached and there was no pose he could stand.
All the armor, all the powder from his make-up had been removed, the streaks of paint had left his soul just slightly bare as if a cotton round dipped in witch hazel had wiped across the face of his soul leaving him cleanly exposed but less raw and agitated. All he could feel now was great remorse for everything he had not accomplished, a peculiar sadness – but not one that could erupt in tears, but rather a frozen gloom that clung to his face like a hockey mask, weighing his temples, the bridge of his nose, and the folds of his chin where all the despair had curled up like a cat preparing to die.
He felt nothing except for the dry sandpaper of his tongue.
All trees have wombs
All lovers have time to choose
The death that they can put in their shirts
And iron out in the morning.
“It’s Bruno,” he finally said, putting the picture down. And he rubbed his eyes the way he’d seen the General do or the way adults do when they remove their spectacles.
“Who? The bear?”
“Yeah. He was a bear in the forest. They called him Bruno and he returned to the area for the first time in over a hundred years…and they shot him.”
“Yup. I saw it on the news on Wednesday. After we had dinner in the rec room.”
The General started to pace. “They killed – ”
“They shot him, General. As he was bathing.”
“What’s a pervert?”
“Someone who shoots bears.”
“Have you ever shot a bear?”
“Do I look that sick to you?”
“I’m sick. Maybe I’ll kill a bear, too.”
“Never. I wouldn’t allow it.”
“Why do they kill horses?”
“Cause they can’t shoot artists.”
“They starve ’em instead.”
— excerpt from my 2006 novella, Where Ladybugs Go to Die
The greatest act of compassion you can do is remain beside someone who doesn’t stand a chance in the fight that they are up against. But you comfort them, you give them some kind of grace in their knowing that they are not alone and will not be betrayed. It is more than unconditional love. It is spiritual camaraderie. And it exceeds the unconditional because in all contexts you do agree with your friend, but you know that you are both grievously outnumbered.
That is love. That is romance. That is compassion. That is purity. In all of this, there is an element of art, God, and justice all entwined.
Even if you don’t believe in any of them.
He begged her to help her daughter. She’d consent if he’d never show his face again; she’d explain his death/disappearance & pay for the mock funeral. They shook hands, but he never signed the contract. Withered now like a tattered leaf caught in between the rice paper of a well kept poorly read bible. We don’t all have skeletons in the closet it’s the mystery of the matter that lurks beneath our pillows or pockets that scares me. Some forgotten deleted promise in the inbox of…Boredom once scared me: to be forgotten was a fear but what comes close to the assassination of a flowerbed that never had the chance to be trampled by hooves wild & untamed & unaware of the bondage they beat upon?