Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A new letter

I hope you are staying cool.

Well, the fireflies are finally leaving us. It happens every year, and every year I think it will never end. So much more charming than the damn tree frogs. I don't think it's the heat but the tree frogs, blanketing the night with their endless, self-important screeches, that drive the poor fireflies away.

But just in time the moonflowers are blooming. I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to show them to you: they're so cool in this ridiculous heat. I see them, glancing up with their graceful flutes and I see the moon and I feel the cool whiteness. The one time a year the fireflies and snow may meet! They glow, too, until you forget it's dark.

I ran some of them over the other day in the car (stupid clumsy thing), and only then did I look and see how beautiful they are. They don't make an effort to be that way, they just grow into themselves. Solid, green leaves and limbs that support fragile blossoms, folded away in the day. It pains me a bit to see the blooms when they fall: they become such a sick yellow, and they give off a putrid smell. But do I regret having seen their beauty when they come to this end?

I dug out the weeds around the moonflowers and sickly vegetables, and I was shocked at the life hiding away in green. Crickets and beetles, spiders scrambling to find another dark spot. I wanted to put back what I had unearthed, witless and unaware. But they'll forgive me, or they won't think anything at all; they'll find that other dark spot and go on eating, living and then dying, like they always do. And they'll come back, and the snow, and the fireflies, too: undaunted, unhesitating and without purpose.

Another night passes and I hope you are well.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Hi mom and dad! Letter 4

A short letter from a young swimmer. Rated G.


Hi mom and dad!

I'm having such a good time! I wanted to come home at first, but now I'm so glad I'm here, I'm having a lot of fun.

My favorite part is swimming. Well, we don't swim, we lie on the beach and let the tide roll over us. First I can just hear it sliding up the sand, then simmering as it leaves behind sand, drying in the sun. Then it touches my ear, then it comes up to my nose. Then it rolls over to my other ear. It touches one hand, then, after a while, the other hand. Oh, I lie on my back, did I say that? It feels so great. It washes over my whole body, then it sucks me towards the sea as it flows away. Sometimes I slide a little, into the sea, before it lets go and I'm just sitting, drying in the sun.

But then it comes and it covers me and it stays. For hours, I'm under water, and it tumbles me back and forth on the ocean floor. I have my eyes closed, but I can feel it holding me, lifting me up then dropping me down, back down on the ocean floor where the sand lightly billows up and meets me, then slowly carries me down to rest. I sit there.

One time I sat there for several days. In the deep ocean, the tide just stops. The sound just stops. There at the bottom, I don't feel the water anymore. I almost want to be on shore again, so that I can feel the tide roll over me. But I don't want to leave, either. Weird, huh? But I just sat there, deep under the sea, and I could hear the fish swim over me. I can hear the ships sail over me. I can hear the stars, they prickle on the ocean's surface and make a noise, did you know that? Out in the deep ocean it's all prickling stars, except when the sun's out. That's when the fish make the most noise. Then they stop, and it's the stars and the ships.

When I was at the bottom, I didn't think of anything. I started, thinking of you, mommie, and you, daddie, like separate waves when I was on the shore. One time, a wave was mommie: soft and lingering, and I loved it. Then, daddie, those were the ones that pushed me out to sea, gave me a lift, and I loved that, too. But then I'm in the deep sea, and mommie and daddie are there, I can hear it in my ears, but you aren't there, either. When the stars are out, sometimes I cry and sometimes I don't.

Somehow I got rolled back. The sea spit me out. It was like dreaming, I was just one place one time, and then I was rolling, and then I was in this other place. And then I was on the shore, and the tide took itself away from me. It covered both ears. Then it covered my mouth, then it didn't and I gasped. Then it left my nose, and then it was just at my ear, and then I could just hear it.

I liked it, but now I don't want to go to the sea for a while. Maybe I'll just sit on the beach and watch, and then I'll go in later.

Love you and miss you

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Now a series of self-indulgence

This one is rated PG-13 for mild language and graphic imagery.


Hello, my darling.

I hope you are doing well. I think of you all the time. I have a tiny lantern here, something they bring us from the surface. They breed generations of fireflies on the way down to these mines, because it's too dangerous to have any sparks or fires. I look at your picture, your beautiful face, now lit in green by these fireflies, now darkened, as I write this letter.

The work is grueling. I don't yet do any swimming in the marshes, but I will eventually; for now, I sort through what they bring back. Every object makes me angry or disgusted, and I'm not the only one. The diggers (that's my group) and the dredgers (swimmers) often get into fights because we hate them for being such assholes and bringing us this stuff. The dredgers must get tired of it; it's not their fault, I know, but we all wish that we could just leave it alone.

Now, if I were to just tell you what comes up, you would probably think it's funny that we get so bent out of shape by such mundane things. I can't explain it, but it's the way they get into you, somehow, and they are covered in the most disgusting layers of dirt and muck and slime.

Maybe if I give an example it will make more sense. The other day a dredger, the little bastard, brought back this bike, one of those faster ones. It was all bent and covered in this black slime that made tears come to my eyes and a slaver to my lips as I tried to clean it off. And as I cleaned it, I thought of you, broken and covered in slime, staring at me with huge, empty eye sockets. I had you there, with me, after all these years, and yet you were gone, dead or parted from your body. I'm ashamed to say I wanted to slap that body, in my anger I thought it might bring you back to me. Please forgive me.

Imagine hour after hour, day after day of that. The objects that come up are always different: spindles, telephones, magazines, brochures, spotlights, terraces, and on and on, but they all cause these reactions. It's so extremely tiring, and most of the time during my rest period I just stare at your picture because I don't have any power to do anything else.

Once in a while we diggers and dredgers get together to try to heal our anger and shake off work. The dredgers make a disgusting drink distilled from the sludge of the marshes. They mix it with caraway seeds and rosemary to make it palatable, and though I said it is disgusting, it really is passable. Because it's distilled, it's even more toxic than the plain slime, but somehow, sharing the dismay of that stuff with your coworkers makes it easy to look them in the eye and celebrate their pain with yours. Still, the first time I drank it I couldn't understand why they would want to mix the torture of work with the exhaustion of rest. But the real reward of the drink is the dreams.

The drink, after all the shared pain at our celebrations, gives the most restful sleep, full of dreams of joy and restoration. Sometimes we gather in one of the communal areas and place all our lamps together in the middle, and then sit and talk about the dreams we have. Some of the younger folk, born down here, dream of the free air up above, of chasing fireflies in the real rain, and falling with lovers in the grass. A guy around my age dreams of being in his kitchen again, frying up bitter gourd flowers and serving them to groups of people, clamoring behind a darkness he can't penetrate with his eyes, but that accepts the glowing flowers gladly. An older man finds peace in not dreaming at all.

But I dream of only one thing, every time. I dream of you coming to the door at my knock, limping and with your cane, and I see you and know that I am forgiven. You lead me to the kitchen, and we eat like new lovers, and hold each other, and I forget the bicycles and the sludge. I wake up rested and whole another day.

I'm sorry I came here, you know that. It was my choice, but I had to come. I've asked your forgiveness, looking at your green face, so many times. But I can't go back now, and you know that, too. I don't know when I'll get out, so I can't even count the days. But I'm thinking of you every minute, that's how I keep track of time and create my calendar. And I know you'll be there when I get back.

I love you.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

More self-indulgence: a sort of reply

Now I'm being really self-indulgent: three people read my last entry, so I decided to write a sequel.

This is fiction and doesn't mean anything at all, I'm afraid. It's less disturbing, and the bees are only marginal. Probably less enjoyable as well.


Hi there!

This is a sort of letter, though I can't send it. You know where I am (mostly), but I have no idea where you are. Maybe I'll shoot off some rockets with copies and hope for the best! But I've so wanted to talk to you again over the years, and this is the only way I know how.

I planted bitter gourds when you left, and they've crept up the side of the house. I thought I would stop gardening when you left because it distracts me from my work, but I enjoy it. I only eat the dirt I collect on my fingers now. Anyway, the gourd flowers have just begun to bloom, and the bees are persistent and all yellow. I can watch the bees' tiny little legs rubbing and collecting pollen moving between all the yellow flowers. I know they are helping the plants to come together, and to grow, and the buzzing really only bothers me when I sit in the backyard, alone, watching them too long.

I started looking at silence, like you said I should. The mirror in the bathroom shows a little bit of it, but oddly enough the little compact I carry with me is most revealing. I don't use it for anything else now; I just stare at it. Sometimes I set it next to my desk and try to surprise the silence while I'm reading: you would laugh, seeing me! But I think I see now what you said was there. I'll keep trying.

I've kept at my work. My little mud men (and women now!) don't move very fast, but I can get them to smile now and again, and sometimes when I leave them for a few days they'll have moved from one side of the barn to another. But they don't know each other, they don't know me. I put them out in the yard last Halloween, and I think the kids loved it. They played tag, and of course my mud men always lost! But one of the kids thought one of my women was very cuddly, and he wrapped his arms around her. She didn't move, and just stared ahead, and the poor boy walked away so dejected! But I sent him away with plenty of candy, and he seemed happy enough. I've seen him a few times after that night, and I don't think he remembers. The mud woman just stared straight ahead. I don't think she's moved since.

It's gratifying to make these fantastic little people, and so frustrating! Everyone thinks they are my servants, but they don't understand. I don't train them to do dishes or anything! You understood. My hope is to one day get them to talk, then maybe everyone will understand.

I'm working now on building bubbles, huge, beautiful things! I build them up around people, and when they walk, the sides shine so wonderfully in the sun. Even better is the light of the moon, everything is ghostly pallid but you can feel the coolness and rest. There's some of that silence shining in the sides of those bubbles, I'm sure of it; you would stand in awe! But I should be more modest...blush. Still, it feels like I'm not creating anything at all: it's just there; I just happen to be the only one that sees it.

Aggh. I hope you are doing well. I worry about you, though I know I shouldn't. I'm sure you are dancing with the locals, climbing mountains like a butterfly and flying down just as fast as a car! I'm afraid you would find it very boring here. You've probably forgotten about me, even though you said you wouldn't. We always talk about you, far away, while here the rain falls and washes everything away.

Why did you leave? But I know why you left. I wanted to come after you. You know, I even pulled out that old bike, the one we used to try to fix? But it still doesn't work, I don't know why. You spent so many hours on it, turning knobs, lifting levers, and it was so hard to watch you, because it would never go. I never wanted it to go. But you knew that, I guess. Still, you kept trying.

I've waited so long for your letter. I know you don't know my address, but after so many decades I had hoped that you might have sent a letter to every house in town. Surely someone is still delivering letters, after all this time? I've lost track.

I'm happy. I hope you are too.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Self-indulgence: A Letter

This is fiction; I hope you'll indulge me. This is fiction: don't look for any hidden meanings, except for the obvious hidden ones.

Also, I should warn you, some may find this disturbing. There is blood, and hair, and dead bees. If you can't stomach either graphic images or poetic license, you might want to skip this one.

A Letter

I made it! It's been a long trip, and it's really not over now that I'm here, but I said I'd write when I got here. We were separated before I could get your address, so I'm afraid this will stay in my notebook for now. Maybe I'll come home again and see you some day—I can give it to you then.

I set out on this trip to find something. To find somewhere my reaction turns to openness and I don't spend every moment closed behind the temporary walls that seem so hard. At first, though, I glided along in a bubble, and with nothing and no one to break the skin, I rode like a white ghost through village after village, never resting, so that city behind told city ahead that I slept in graveyards, and people avoided me for fear I would take them from their families and bury them in shallow graves far from home. I didn't want to suck their blood, but after so many hungry nights I found myself craving first the blood of cattle, then family dogs, and finally small children.

For months I rode alone, sometimes for hundreds of miles at a stretch. I climbed mountains along with cars, then floated down the opposite side as light and airy as the butterflies wafting from flower to flower by the side of the road.

The people that did not run when they saw me were fellow travelers. They too had taken to sucking blood; though they were ashamed, they felt they had no other option. We had killed no one, we all agreed. For some reason, the bees flew around our heads when we sat next to the campfire, but we paid no attention, and they left when we retired to our tents for sleep.

But I met one man, a traveler, who did not suck blood. He listened politely to the others' tales of blood in barns, on porches, in parks of far-flung cities. I watched him the whole night, but he didn't speak a word until the others gradually dropped off to sleep.

With the others gone, he finally engaged me. I no longer understand why he chose me, but at the time it struck me as appropriate. He didn't dwell on his own past but told me immediately he had given up sucking blood. He said he found that giving up on blood, at first the pangs were unforgiving, but finally, after several days, he did not need the blood anymore. He said his dreams sustained him.

I laughed at the thought of surviving on dreams and took up my bike again the next day after many days of rest. My fellow travelers and I had raided the nearby city so much that the people had all evacuated, so we were rich with vigor.

But soon I was once again alone for days at a time, and I found my energy sapped as the long miles between cities supported nothing. The buzzing of the bees became unbearable. They had built a hive in my flesh, and the blood I sucked went now not to push me up hills, but to their growing children. I slept on my stomach as a hive grew first on the back of my leg, then another on my neck. All the while they buzzed, until I grew frantic.

At last I could no longer move. I lay in my tent as the bees flew wildly around my head; they grew angry because I had no more blood. I was so weak I could not say I was sorry, and they stung me.

I was near death. I felt suddenly the horror of those poor little bees as they died deep in my flesh. The hives grew stiff and cracked, then one day they shriveled and blew away. The bees buzzed no longer.

That night I dreamt of you. So long ago, another life. You posed with your back to me, your beautiful hair curling up around your shoulders, I surprised you framed in the doorway, waiting. Waiting for me.

I awoke and remembered the history of that image. I was wandering in a labyrinth, my head down. The labyrinth wound around and around, and though there were no walls, I could follow nothing but the black line ahead of me as it curved. Through interlocking labyrinths I found I could always reach my destination... or, well, I found I always reached a destination, even if I did not at first recognize where I was.

And there you were, your hair shining in the sun so that the black line of the labyrinth grew fuzzy and dissipated and I could see the door. Then even the door disappeared and it was just you and me and the warm light of the sun.

Remembering that moment I felt a new life inside me. My flesh wounded by the bees still hurt, but I soon could move again, and a month later, after dreaming every night of warmth and light, I could push, and then could pedal, my bike again.

I was no longer feared. In towns the people welcomed me, and we danced and sang. We shared the stories of our dreams, but when I began to speak of the bees they grew quiet, so I told a story of my home and we sang once again, of home, and of lightning, and fireflies. Then it rained and the beauty washed away to be replaced by beauty.

And so I reached this place! Unlike the people of the cities and villages by the road, I do not shun the travelers who suck blood, because I am a traveler, too.

I hope life is treating you well. All the best.