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Living in the Surreal ..

Posted in The Flow and Rhythm of Life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 04/14/2013 by Angel D. Vargas

Life is surreal.

“Surreal” isn’t a term I really like. When I use it, I feel like I’m dumbing down a process through which some major epiphany has granted me the power to move on with my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad life with a fresh, “up with people” perspective.

But if you had been in the neighborhood of 125th and Lenox in upper Manhattan at about a quarter to six this morning, life would have seemed pretty surreal to you too.

I was sleeping next to my girlfriend. She awoke in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. Everything seemed normal. She crawled back into bed next to me and we remembered that it was Sunday and that we really like snuggling together and talking under the covers during a lazy weekend. It helps us remember what matters, even if it’s just a moment in time.

Not five minutes after she came back to bed, a horrible sound of crunching metal and plastic erupted just outside the apartment. It seemed to rattle the bedroom window.  I didn’t know what the sound was. I wasn’t awake enough to make sense of it until a horrible screeching noise followed. Rubber scraped against asphalt, and the squeal seemed to echo into eternity.

“Jesus Christ!”

I think I might have said that twice. I said it once before we both sprang from the bed and ran to the bedroom window to see what had happened. Even now, the fucked up visual doesn’t make any sense without context. I said it again after I told my girlfriend that I had to go take a major piss.

Why I decided to go relieve myself at that moment is still a bit beyond me. All I remember is that I was nauseated, and I still didn’t understand what had happened.

I also recall my knees shaking like the leaves of a quaking aspen in the wind. I sat down on that toilet seat and put my head between my sweating hands. I might have stayed like that for minutes or hours. I didn’t really know or care.

Eventually, I stood up and washed my hands. Like some character out of the show Supernatural, I thought I smelled a Reaper in the air.

I was sure that death lingered close by, waiting to claim the lost soul of the victim of a freak accident.

“Jesus H. Christ!”

I got back to the bedroom and stood next to my girlfriend. She seemed more than willing to give me a blow by blow of what was going on out there.

“Nobody’s gotten out of either car yet.”

“Motherfucker.”

In all honesty, I don’t recall saying that last word. I don’t remember much of what was said after that. But as the haze and the shock of the accident seemed to lift from around us both, things started to fall into place. Out the window, on our side of the street, we only saw two cars. The first one was a silver Charger with its back turned to us like a wounded dog hiding its face.  The second car was sort of sitting to the right of the first. It was a green SUV that didn’t appear to have been even been scratched, at least not from our vantage point. The only thing that seemed to have happened, in fact, was that the SUV was nudged a few feet out of its parking spot.

It made no sense. Such a horrible crash followed by a rubber screech that lasted for at least three seconds just didn’t do … what we saw.

But time ticked by. Some of the neighbors from across the street turned on their bedroom lights and peeked outside like we were doing. Thanks to them, I felt a little better about being some sort of voyeur. The cops were on the scene immediately. The fire department came minutes later. EMT’s never showed. That struck us as odd until we came to the most important conclusion.

Nobody died.

I thought for sure someone was going to buy it. For about a nanosecond I was disappointed. I can’t lie. I’m a horror writer.

Then the stomach ache began.

About an hour later, all sorts of things had happened. The driver of the silver Charger, wearing a black shirt with green writing on it, angrily shouted into his cell phone that the car for which he was responsible was a “fucking wreck.”

“What de’ hell I’m ‘a do wid ‘dis shit?”

His friend, a shorter man with a grey tee shirt on, seemed to be the voice of reason.

“Look, dude, least you’re alive.”

And that was what mattered. When other details fell into place, we learned that nobody, in fact, was dead. A third car was apparently involved in the accident. That unknown driver may or may not have been at fault for the entire catastrophe. We never really got to figure that much out.  A tow truck driver couldn’t even tow the silver wreck out of the way in one try. His truck’s hook lost its grip on the wreckage twice.

I grinned. And call me sadistic, but I was thankful I wasn’t going to have to figure out how to pay for THAT repair bill. The driver and his friend drank two cups of coffee purchased at the deli just below our window.

My girlfriend and I  went back to bed. We didn’t fall asleep right away, of course. We talked about the accident. We talked about how our weekend was going before the crash, and how it might go afterwards. Things like money and job woes don’t matter as much when you’re thankful just to be in one piece. That lesson sinks in deeper when you’re with loved ones.  The problems might not go away, but their importance in the grand scheme of the universe dwindles.

I just got through sending out something like 6 job aps. I took a break to watch a show. I thought about my latest submission of a short story to a magazine for consideration. My girlfriend’s out teaching a dance class. We still have lives to live and things to do to survive in this city. She still has to talk to her dad about her insurance costs, and I still want to start writing the latest chapter for my online serial. At least I know she’ll come home in one piece, and we’ll have an easier time figuring out how to scrounge up enough money for dinner together tonight.

There’s a cat purring in my lap too.

Surreal or serene? Take your pick.

Goodbye ..

Posted in Drum Roll with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 10/19/2012 by Angel D. Vargas

I don’t wake up crying in our old apartment anymore.

I don’t see our cats stalking across the living room toward me, tails up and eyes wide, wondering why my eyes are doing funny things like leaking water.

I can’t see the front door the apartment we used to share. I’ve forgotten what color it is.

I’ve been able to recall less and less of our neighborhood walks. My old haunts are still fresh in my mind, but they don’t include the memory of your presence. I don’t feel you near me anymore when I walk in my favorite park. You’re not whispering in my ear when I stare at the ducks at my favorite pond. I no longer think of the touch of your skin when I imagine the smooth caress of a duckling’s feathers.

The tightness in my chest when I think about your absence has faded.

I can’t bring myself to compare the women I meet to you anymore. Their curves no longer remind me of yours. Their eyes don’t sparkle with the same blues.  I am taken by individual personalities. I no longer detest the idea that my newest acquaintances carry similar personality quirks to yours. I evaluate on a case by case basis again.

I don’t remember what television shows we used to watch together.

How did we discover Tai Iced Tea together, or that the word “Pho” didn’t mean “enemy” in Vietnamese restaurants?

It’s time for me to move on.

I’ve stopped reading our letters to the phantoms of one another that neither of us could ever hope to be. I’ve stopped crucifying myself for not being the man I’ll never be.

I’ve stopped wondering what you wear to work. I don’t do your laundry anymore. I don’t wash your dishes. I no longer pick up your crap.

I don’t remember what your hair smells like anymore.

But make no mistake. I will always care.

Just as you were my deepest wound, you were my greatest love.

I’m still recovering my ability to trust. I am still learning the lessons of the heart that you tried to teach me, whether you know it or not.

We’ll always have the Space Needle and White Chocolate Mochas. We’ll always have the first time we made love.

I’ll always know your tender heart as you once knew mine. I’ll always see it in your photographs of roses. I’ll always feel it in the way you care for others. I’ll always remember it in your kiss.

I will always love you.

Goodbye.

Duck, Duck, Person…

Posted in The Flow and Rhythm of Life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 04/30/2012 by Angel D. Vargas

It was another early morning wake up time for me.  The sun hadn’t crept into my room through my open window yet, but the cold air definitely made my toes curl. My blanket had gotten twisted off of my bed, a sure sign that I’d had at least one nightmare.  I’ve gotten used to waking up with my blanket in knots under my arms, or even with my blanket having been tossed to the other side of the room violently.  When I was in high school, I woke up once to serious pain in my right hand, and a knuckle sized indent in my bedroom wall.

 

I groaned as I got out of bed and dragged my computer to me like a willing lover.  I did what I’ve been kicking myself for doing lately.  I checked twitter, I checked Facebook, I checked the stats of my blog, and I checked a couple of other websites.  In truth, I felt hopelessly lost, like one of the Knights of the Round Table in search of the elusive Holy Grail.   I don’t even know what the hell I’m looking for anymore.  Checking the internet just feels automatic now.  I’m up, it’s time to check to see if my life on the internet is worth all the time and energy I seem to put into it lately.  Gotto tell you all, it wasn’t.  And none of my other friends were going to be awake anyway, so there would be no Skyping or instant messaging with them. I was alone again among a different crowd on the world wide web.

 

Once I was done messing around with my computer, I got dressed, brushed my teeth, and got the fuck out of dodge.  My family was asleep.  So were their dogs, thank God.  Those yippie little motherfuckers have a habit of barking and giving away my position when I want to let my family sleep in.  They act like it’s my fault my parents were up late again watching bad television. It’s all I can do not to kick them both before I leave the apartment.  Worse, I’ve been feeling a cold sort of cruelty lately, a disdain for most of humanity that could easily become a dragon’s fire that consumes everyone in my path.  Maybe some of my muses are trying to wake the fuck up again so they can distract me from whatever is making me feel this way.  With my luck with writing lately, I just don’t know that it will happen.  Granted it’s only been a couple of days since my last couple of thousand words, but it’s still another frustration that I don’t want . I’m doing the mental masturbating that I’ve gotten so sick of lately.  My mind’s left hand is going either fall off or get really hairy.

 

But I figured if I was going to brood over something, I might as well go do it over at my favorite duck pond.

 

And it didn’t take me long to get there.  My feet were able to find the familiar path even thought the rest of me was so distracted by other things.  And it was nice to not be utterly surrounded with people at the park on a sunny, 45  day.

 

The pond was definitely pretty.  Morning sun reflects off the water in a different way than the afternoon sun does.  The ducks are lazier too.

 

They were doing something that I have never been awake and out at the pond early enough to see them do.  One duck would lazily swim along, his feet just kind of swishing behind him in the water.  Then without warning, he’d duck his head under the water as his body kept moving forward.  It was a bit like watching a feathered submarine.  When he wanted to see above the water again, he’d poke his head up slowly, like a periscope.  I had to smirk at that moment.  The hunt for Red October was on.

 

But then another duck showed up.  The first duck kept his head but he didn’t see the second duck making a bee line for him in the water.  Their paths were about cross.  It wasn’t going to be a violent collision, but maybe they would have quacked at each other or something.  But just when they were about to collide, they both stuck their heads below water and passed each other with two sets of moving ripples.  They were two feathery submarines with the same mission in mind, and they just missed each other by inches.

 

I love my ducks, but I don’t know a heck of a lot about them.  I don’t know if they communicate underwater using “quack” bubbles or anything like that.  But the sight of two ducks missing each other by inches got me to thinking New York pedestrians, and how many of them I witness each day passing each other like these ducks.  Instead their heads aren’t buried under the green, sunlit water of a pond looking for food.  The heads of these curious “New Yorker” creatures are looking down at their smart phones and their kindles, texting, reading, not looking where they are going a great deal of the time, and still managing to avoid each other.

 

And I find that sad.

 

I am not going to sit here and type out this BLOG post while condemning social media.  My hypocrisy will only stretch so far.  I am an American consumer, and like the rest of us, I’ve somehow embraced the tenets of capitalism and technology’s role in said norms.

 

But I can’t lie to you either.  There are some very interesting people in this world,  and I’m sad to see them looking at their smart phones instead of paying attention to the world around them.  There are teenagers with keen intellect in their eyes, pretty women and handsome, snappily dressed men with stories written all over their faces, old people with tales of their glory days just itching to be shared with young strangers like me.  And even in places like Central Park, they wander around practically Eskimo kissing their smart phones in an attempt to communicate while the world around them continues to exist.  Spring flowers continue to bloom. Tiny robins tweet (and not on the internet). Potential conversations with real people are avoided.  Gothic Architecture isn’t admired. Food festivals aren’t savored for the unique cultural experience that they provide. And even the potential for romance seems to fly out the window, replaced (most believe) by something known as internet speed dating.

 

I’ve done my share of internet “dating” too.  It flies in the face of everything I was taught about love and romance growing up.  Then again, maybe that’s not always a bad thing in my case 😉  Live  with my parents for a month and you’ll think that movie “War of the Roses” was a picture of paradise.

 

I met a special someone on the internet.  It isn’t always easy.  Only time, at this point, will tell me if it will work. I gamble with my heart when I think it’s worth it.  Deep down, despite my apparently cold view toward people, I think she has the potential to be.

 

My parents didn’t prepare me for that one.

 

But what does it mean when the people around you all start to look like ducks who bury their heads underwater looking for something special?  Ducks have a simple reason to “duck,” don’t they?

 

Maybe people have their reasons too, but I am only really beginning to understand what they are. I do it myself, and I’m still trying to understand why..

 

“Duck and cover” isn’t just something people say when fighting breaks out.

 

 

What do you all think out there in internet land?  Why do people lower their heads and avoid the potential for joy and goodness in their lives? I’d love to hear from any of you on this subject.

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