When we met, you said you liked The Decemberists and a Chilean novelist named Roberto Bolano. This is how I remember you. In barely legible poetry written on postcards of Paul Klees that hang somewhere in Zurich. O, the colors defy names. Imaginary Alps. The pause that tells between church bells. On the dock with your foot dipped in the Kapuas River. Crying in the movies. Love fodder. The Queen of Spain sits in her castle 52 floors above Chicago dining on novels and sad songs. She will not go back. She’s not going back. She will never go back. But I will light the candle to blur distinction between light and shadow for she who hears the cries of the world. Je est un autre. The glaciers are melting; we were never not ocean. For what else a howling beast if not to kiss away? I will ask again tomorrow after I catch a train to your kingdom.
Jon drove his Saturn Vue 3.6 miles to scale, on foot, Lone Mountain’s 600 feet to seek refuge in the wise council of Lone Mt. Roshi.
Lone Mt. Roshi’s face looked like cracked bronze leather that melted a little and dripped drippy wise leather. His long white hair and beard called to mind Santa Claus and/or Walt Whitman. His old robe looked like an old robe; he was exactly as he was and the other things, too. He was complicated, though simply and straightforward like an old man stirring a pot of gruel.
Lone Mt. Roshi stirred a pot of gruel and, grimacing, shook his head. “What do you want with this thing that you call the what…?”
“My Original Nature! My face before my parents were born! The Treasure House! The 10,000 foot Palace of Rubies and—”
“Yes, that. Your Ruby Treasure Face. To what end do you seek such a string of frustrating enigmas?”
“Duh, Lone Mt. Roshi! So I can be freed from the tyranny of selfhood and publish a self-help book and do book signings and speaking engagements and receive the financial backing of several eco-friendly sponsors.”
THWAPPP… Jon’s chin snapped behind his shoulder. Lone Mt. Roshi had enormous slapping hands.
“Ha ha ha! There! There, Jon, is your Ruby Treasure Face!”
“What the hell, Lone Mt. Roshi?!?” Jon held his stinging cheek. “What in the EVER LOVING hell?!?”
“Oh, but don’t mourn your stingless face. Gods are born and die. Empires are crumbling. Kingdoms are under construction. My friend, Derek, got a new dog. And yet there you sit like a little boy wishing only for sweets in his mouth. Here. Stay for dinner. Find your nature later.”
Jon ate the old man’s gruel, thinking of his face.
The old couple sat in lawn chairs in the skeleton of a house, partially framed. There would be a second story but not now—the carpenters had all gone home. They could’ve been anyone, as we all might, but at the same time, they were themselves particularly.
The new construction, at the end of a long, provisional driveway, was surrounded and hidden by a thick stand of oaks. Next to the house a small fire burned, feeding on the work day’s wood scrap. The unfinished house held its place awhile between oak tree and ash.
When the carpenters returned, the old couple turned them away. They would stay in their house the way it was; it was so pleasantly breezy and the sky was its ceiling. You don’t want it finished? the carpenters asked. Someday, they said. But when? they queried. No hurry, no hurry.
The old man emerged like steam off coffee, slow, kinda swirly. He looked like Ben Kenobi might look if Ben Kenobi had long white hair and a long white beard, so more like Gandalf but without the wizard hat. No lightsaber. But he did look rich with Force, though old and decrepit. In fact, he would have blended right in with the jagged desert rocks had he not steamed into slow, swirly emergence.
“Excuse me, sir. But are you Lone Mt. Roshi?” Jon asked him, wiping sweat from his brow.
“It depends who’s asking!” he cried and held his staff aloft. “I am no gold sandy beach for sunbathing tourists with cocoa butter and floppy hats!”
“My name is Jon, sir, and I have driven my Saturn Vue 3.6 miles and scaled these 600 feet to seek refuge in your wise council.”
“Do you know, Jon, when you’re smoking crack and your mind is racing about how you’ll obtain more crack before you’ve even enjoyed the boulder in your pipe?”
“This is not good. Think hard on this.”
“But—” But nothing, for Lone Mt. Roshi had dissolved into the rocks like cream in coffee.
Several years later, Jon drove his Saturn Vue 3.6 miles to summit, on foot, Lone Mountain’s 600 feet and Lone Mt. Roshi taught him how to tie a noose.
“No, dummy—over, then under, around, around, around. Like this!” All afternoon they tied nooses. When Jon tried to talk or ask questions, Lone Mt. Roshi gazed wordlessly at the Las Vegas Strip until the questions were no longer questions; they were nooses.
“There!” Jon had mastered noose tying as the dark swallowed the sun. Orange and violet death spasms.
“Well done HA HA HA! Very well done, Jon. But what good is the perfect noose without sturdy, weight bearing beams in one’s garage?”
Several years later, Jon drove his Saturn Vue 3.6 miles to summit, on foot, Lone Mountain’s 600 feet and Lone Mt. Roshi was very pleased with Jon’s earnest will to pass through the Twin Gates of drug addiction and suicidal ideation.
“Addiction and death are but mendacious escapes from the wily labyrinth of selfhood! Merely artificial sweeteners when I have come seeking sugar!” Jon announced in keeping with a unified coffee metaphor.
“Very good,” said Lone Mt. Roshi, rubbing his beard and nodding slowly, “Next time, bring tea.”
All the fascinating people with the golden things to say were at a different party, earlier tonight. And tomorrow morning you will wake up in the wrong bed in the wrong house on the wrong planet, asking yourself how it happened that you arrived in this body and world and the tenacious situations created at their intersection. The toast will be burnt. The coffee too weak. The day too not what you dreamed. But then you will seek comfort, and find it for awhile, in a religion or philosophy that looks on the bright side. Good things are coming. Good things are coming. And you had good things, once, back when it wasn’t this, and, hey, chin up—it won’t be this forever. So you walk down the wrong street in the wrong city and imagine how good it will be when you finally do all the right things and wrest satisfaction and happiness from the throat of this life. It will be too hot outside and you’ll remember with a sigh that it was too damn cold not long ago. You imagine the conversations you’ll soon have with the people you love and they will forgive you or chase you away and you will play a kind of conversational chess down these contrary paths, crossing out what not to say while storing away all the golden things. And they will finally say please, stay for tea or tell you get bent and, when they do—either way—you will be very kind and magnanimous. And you will learn to play guitar and write songs that are already written except, this time, you wrote them and all the people love you and weep when you sign your autograph. When you die, they will be sick to their stomachs and all the cars will stop. The streets will be flooded with mourners mourning double, mourning both for you and a seat in the overcrowded church. The crammed mourners in the church will be in violation of building safety codes and the mourning firemen will pull wailing mourners outside, for their own safety, while the mourners inside form a line to the podium to say all kinds of golden things. Then a car door will slam and a crow will caw and your long paragraph of delusion will end and skip a line.
Because that slam and that caw just then, when it was now, will slam and caw through all your fantasies in a way that messes with your sense of tense. You will think I am someone who just heard a slam and a caw. No. I am someone who just thought “I am someone who just heard a slam and a caw.” No. I am someone who just thought “No. I am someone who just thought ‘I am someone who just heard a slam and a caw.’” and so on; you will chase yourself to the nearest edge of the moment until you and the world embrace in seamless weirdness that was always right here. It’s always right here, even when you’re not.
You will walk home then, down the golden street. Enjoy it while it lasts. It won’t.
They sat on the little girl’s bed. All the things of the world arose from the dark, cautiously, then suddenly: there, shining out in the shine, morning. She was 9.
“I don’t want to go to school, Mommy! I’m afraid to go to school!”
“Because there’s a quiz and I won’t know the answers! It’s too hard!”
“Oh, baby. It won’t be so hard. You wanna know what’s harder than not knowing the answers?”
“Being a little girl who’s afraid of not knowing the answers.”
“Sitting here in your cozy pajamas on your comfortable bed. Talking to your sweet mother and breathing, too. Over and over constantly breathing. Now that’s hard.”
“No it’s not.”
“Let’s make breakfast.”
The ship is leaving and the people are squinting, trying to see through the irrefutable fog. Just dropped you off; cried all the way home. How are you 11, today, as it rains in Las Vegas? Is it not still somehow now that on you the kitty is jumping? Nostalgia's not but a wilted abstraction for craving the stars. What I mean to say is that I am stunned. Amazed at such a thing as a you and a me, time, and this nonstop speechless world.