video

Wouldn’t It Be Nice

Sometimes, I like the class assignments I’m given. Sometimes, I like to try new things. Sometimes, I like to explore a different form of creative expression than I’m used to. Sometimes, I make myself sad somewhat by accident and this was one of those times. But I did enjoy making this video a lot, mostly thanks to my two wonderful actors. Shoutout to Mackenzie Emi and Johnny Klyver for being troopers and taking all my uncoordinated direction.

*I do not own the footage between 1:52 and 2:07. This is for a school project only. No copyright infringement intended. Original footage can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhM7lcHSM-U

*Also I just realized I accidentally said that I wrote this song at the end of the video. It’s pretty famous so I figured it would be obvious but this is a cover of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” by the Beach Boys.

personal

10 Lessons from a Senior Care Facility

  1. There is no such thing as “TMI.”
  2. Complaining and grumbling about problems does not solve them.
  3. There are a lot of people in this world that know a hell of a lot more about life than I do.
  4. Cranberry juice mixed with Sprite looks exactly like a rosé.
  5. You cannot assume you know anything about a person’s thoughts or beliefs based on their age.
  6. “Working with old people” should not be treated as some great service to society. At least in food service (I am not extending this point to care, which is a significantly more difficult job), it’s just like working with anyone else except with a greater percentage of patient customers.
  7. Wash. Your. Damn. Hands. (Because having the CDC step in at your facility right around Christmas is actually the worst thing ever.)
  8. Listening can be the greatest expression of love.
  9. It doesn’t take a lot to make someone feel appreciated.
  10. Caring and loving every person takes work and thought but it’s worth it.

I only worked at Eskaton Senior Care for a year and a half, and yet, it feels as though it was such a big part of my life. I am excited for a new opportunity but I find my departure from this job to be much more bittersweet than I had imagined. There are a lot more lessons that I could have listed as I feel that working there genuinely impacted me as a person. Some would be hilarious and some would be incredibly sad. But for now, I just want to use this space to thank all of my coworkers, the good and the bad, the longstanding and the week-longs; Eskaton as a cooperation and the level of care they provide for their residents and their employees; and most importantly, the residents that I worked with. Your kindness, patience, funny stories, and support are things that I cherish so much.

There are not many things that I have found myself “missing” in life. Typically, I leave and move forward into a new experience without much anxiety about it. But from the bottom of my heart, I will miss all of you. Your sweet smiles, your kind words, your stories of wars and traveling and loves that stand the test of time. I wish the best for all of you.

fiction

Men of Honor

We used to laugh and say that it was impossible to imagine Danny as an old man.

We laughed and called him “reckless.” Laughed and said he was “begging for death.” Laughed and called him “bachelor,” “the infinite youth.” The boy who was at once with every woman and never with a single one. Surely, gray would never pepper the scraggly blond head of my brother Danny.

Back then, back in our Oxford days, all of our lives were so very quiet. We marched slowly, calmly, and quietly towards business or law or Parliament. Danny enjoyed making a little noise along the road. He liked to rattle our bones a bit, push us a bit. But looking back at it now, it wasn’t really “noise.” Danny’s version of “the quiet life” just happened to look a little bit different from the rest of ours.

It was quiet to him, I think. But I suppose all lives begin so quiet. Our lives certainly did. As little boys, we played quietly in the creeks and listened to our mother yell at us. And though we looked exactly alike, somehow, Danny had a different sort of aura about him. An aura that demanded leadership and incited a sense of adventure in everyone he interacted with.

The first and loudest noise – though I didn’t realize then that it was noise – came from Dr. Kent. Danny and I were in his history class together. Dr. Kent was not the only one old man to contribute to the growing sea of noise, but his voice occupied the most space in our imaginations. So charismatically, he told us stories of the great warriors of old, of the adventure that is war, of the honor and glory that could be ours if we enlisted.

“You, young men,” he proclaimed, “have a chance that I do not. You have a chance to be men of honor.”

We sat, quiet, as we listened to our professor preach. Loudly, his lips bled bombastic stories of glory and honor and God and king and country. Quietly, we absorbed his fatherly “wisdom” and drank his words like fine wine. Dr. Kent’s words enthralled Danny the most out of any of us and they seemed to bring out something buried inside him, some secret desperation to be more than “the reckless boy.” Perhaps in battle, he could be dashing youth and man of honor.

“Enlist, Charlie,” he said to me. “We’ll do it together. We’ll fight together at the front for the glory of England.”

Quietly, I followed him. I always followed him my brother, good Danny. I thought war was our  time, our chance to shed winded youth and become a men of honor. And surely, if Danny believed the war righteous, we could trust him.

There was, even back then, something inside of me. Something I could not verbalize, that I could not admit to Danny and certainly could not admit to myself. I assured myself it was not fear… It couldn’t be fear… for “men of honor have the hearts of lions,” “men of honor have no fear.” And how I wanted to be a man of honor, so I stifled the feeling and I listened to Dr. Kent and the rest of the bearded old men.

“Men of honor die with honor, for even to die,” they all told us, “would be an awfully big adventure.”

When we told our father that we planned to enlist, he gave a curt nod, perhaps the greatest honor he had ever given Danny and me.

“I would expect nothing less from my sons,” he said, sounding strangely pleased with himself. “My boys will be men of honor.”

Danny spoke so many words sometimes that he began to sound quite like Dr. Kent. But I always listened intently. Soon, more voices joined Dr. Kent’s. “Fight for England! Be men of honor!”

And quietly, we followed. Followed old men who we assumed knew best, followed the officers we assumed were lion-hearted. Followed our families, our country, all the way to the front and down into trenches. But it seemed strange that the people we followed did not join us there.

Quiet indeed were all the uniform boys. Quiet indeed were we “men of honor.”

I no longer remember what “quiet” sounds like.

***

It always seemed so dark in the trenches, even in daylight. The civilians liked to call us “brave” and yet it seemed such an odd way to describe us when we spent so much time hiding in trenches, like little rats scavenging in the sewers of London.

I looked down at my boots which were a few inches deep in the mud and manure and I missed sewers.

A loud CRASH pierced my moment of quiet.

“GAAAAAS!!!” We heard the shriek and instinctively fumbled as quickly as we could for our gas masks.

Don’t panic. I thought to myself. Don’t panic. Don’t panic. Stop and get down. Stop and get down. Stop and – CRASH!!!

Something fell and crashed down near us and I couldn’t tell what. I never knew what. I didn’t care what.

Shriek – commands – Danny, I think. That shriek sounded familiar. But I had to put it out of my thoughts while I scrambled.

Stop and get down. Stop and get down.

I found the rest of our unit. I found guns. And I aimed and I fired and I think I hit someone and I think it was someone that I was supposed to hit. I think. But I don’t know for sure.

I heard German shrieks, too. I only knew they were German because I heard one of them shouting in German. It sounded like German. But the sound of my own breath was so loud that I couldn’t say anything for sure. I never felt safe in masks. I feared I would suffocate. I feared the mustard gas would seep through some imperceptible crack in my mask and put its claws down my throat and into my lungs and there would be no escaping.

I chose to not think of my brother. That seemed to be the primary objective at the front: stop. get down. shoot. don’t think. Thinking is too much. If we thought for even a moment the noise of our own thoughts might drown us.

Suddenly, I saw a figure come scrambling around the corner, but I would never have known it was Danny if he hadn’t been shrieking. I could not see his face or his body behind the man dragging him, I could only hear his shrieks.

“Danny!” I cried out. But there was no reply as a few of our men forced his compromised face into a mask. I wanted to run to him but someone was holding me back. I couldn’t say who. We all looked the same in those damn masks.

I don’t remember that night very well, at least, not that night in particular. I remember flashes. I remember crashing and shrieking and seeing a boy without a leg or an arm that I think was a friend but I couldn’t tell at the time. It was a friend, I found out later. But there were many nights like that and they soon became indistinguishable from one another.

I met Danny later in the hospital ward. I looked into his boil-covered face as he coughed and spat and moaned.

“You’re going to be okay, Danny,” I said over and over and over. Even without the boils, as I looked in his now finely-etched face, I knew I would never have recognized him as Danny. How he looked so like an old man. Gray had begun to invade his blond hair, what was left of it. I wondered if I looked like that.

The officers told me I had to return to the front. Danny was asleep when I left and the nurses told me that he needed to rest and I’d see him once he recovered. They assured me that he would recover and I’d see him again. And I was naive and I trusted them. So I quietly marched back to the front.

***

I suppose I am lucky for ever seeing the other side of the trenches. That’s how I’m supposed to feel, at least.

It seems so odd the way that no one else can hear the noise. No one except my fellow servicemen. The civilians were grateful for the end of the war. I know it did wear heavily upon them all, too. But I look into their eyes and I find that there is something inside them that I can no longer discern, a quality of civilians that alienates me from them.

It seems strange to me. The way I can hear things that they cannot.

For a time, I assumed it was me. But I realize now that it was never I who could not understand. It was them, in their naivety. In their sweet, sickening naivety. They, who had sent us off for God knows why. And at night, as I sleep, in each cannon, each gunshot, each shell that explodes, I hear Danny’s youthful voice.

“Enlist, Charlie!” “Let’s enlist, Charlie!” “For the glory of England, Charlie!”

I will not describe it. I will not describe what it is to see him each night, to hear his voice, to watch –

There are nights when I see him and I awake and I shake and –

You see, for all the strife that exists in this world, no one can understand. Certainly not a professor or an officer. Only the boys who marched so quietly to the front at the command of our noisy superiors, and when we do see one another, if ever, the last subject any of us ever want to speak of is the front. Because our lives are noisy enough. We can’t speak of –

We still hear the guns ring in our ears and we still hear our bastard officers and professors and parents and families yelling at us to “BE MEN OF HONOR.”

I saw Dr. Kent one day in London, a few years after the war had ended. He asked me how I was. I said I was all right. He asked me how Danny was.

“Dead,” I said.

I rather liked the way he looked as if someone had punched him. “I am so sorry.” I did not reply. He looked up to the sky and away from my eyes and said in a disgustingly dignified sort of way “Danny… Danny died a man of honor.”

My vision of Dr. Kent was momentarily obscured with red as every lecture he had ever given rushed back into my consciousness, as I thought of his rhetoric which had pushed my brother and I and all the young boys to the brink of hell. How we had respected them, those wretched men who sent their own sons to die. My pulse suddenly roared across my ears so noisily. My heart raced and I felt blood rush to the tips of my fingers and my hands felt they might explode in irritation if I did not slap him. I imagined myself tackling him to the ground and disfiguring his facial bones and screaming at him to “fight like a man of honor” –

But instead, I nodded and I politely continued the conversation with my fists balled tight. We spoke of nothing, really. I refused to speak of anything of substance. I bid him “goodbye” and was about to leave, but I suddenly heard a chillingly familiar crash off in the distance.

No, not the crash of shells. Not the crash of shells… it’s not real it’s not real… the war is over the war is over it’s not real… the London street fills with noise it’s not real it’s not real the war is over remember the war something falls out of the sky “GAAAAAAS” shriek click BOOM “MASKS ON” where is my mask where is my mask I reach for it it’s not there where is my “CHARLIE GET UP CHARLIE” arms grabbing me I claw at them you won’t take me you won’t where’s my gun where’s my mask CRASH “STOP GET DOWN” so much noise where is Danny where is there he is he’s not wearing a mask DANNY MASK ON MASK ON he can’t hear me he needs to hear me where’s my mask “GAAAAAAS” “DANNY” click BOOM  –

***

Each night I lay my head down and I shake. There are nights when I lie awake and I cover my ears and it doesn’t help. There are nights when I lie awake and I curse the names of the old men like Dr. Kent and my father who betrayed their sons.

And there are still darker nights when I wonder if Danny was perhaps the lucky one.

He is free… free of them… free of noise… free of shells and gas and crashing… Danny lives a quiet life. How I long for that… long for quieter –

poetry

To Lore and Elias

you added your names
to ever rotting woods, to
trees ripped from their roots

among the other
little sharpie headstones and
permanent mistakes

I sometimes wonder
if you walk in waking dreams
or nightmares endured

do you live in the
weary mind of the other
as lover or lesson?

I like to think you
found a way to wander back
to this little forest

look back at your names
together and smile at your
sweet naivety

I like to think you’re
sitting in some other booth
on some other day

and carving your names
in everlasting stones that
never turn to sand

but if you did fall
out of love like shooting stars
I hope you look up

every now and then
up to the dark satin skies
where you used to live

look up into the
black heavenly past and find
a touch of silver

reconnect the dots
and count the constellations
you forgot and say

if nothing else we
remember, let’s remember
that we learned.

lore and elias.jpg

*Inspired by the graffiti in Woodstock’s Pizza. To Lore and Elias, I hope you guys made it.

fiction

The Queen

Regina’s kingdom consisted of no more or less than the four beige walls of a studio apartment. She ran an isolationist country that could not be bothered with the petty affairs of other neighboring nations. The few subjects that visited the queen seldom waited for permission to do so. Rather, they unlocked the gates themselves, peeked their youthful bodies in, asked a question, and departed.

“Are you feeling okay, Regina?” asked a different one each day.

“Yes.” She replied from her throne on wheels.

“Good day.” And the one portal to the outside world closed just as it did every day.

It seemed an eternity since the king had passed. How the empire had mourned then. How Regina’s heirs had grieved so sincerely, it seemed. How those grown children had embraced Regina with such loving arms in her grief. How sweet they were to allow her to stay with them “as long as she needed.” How sweet her children were, how sweet their many words. How sweet was their desire to “help” Regina through this difficult season of life in any way they could. How sweet were they to make decisions on her behalf, how sweet were they to sort through the king’s possessions so Regina did not have to undergo such pain.

How sweet were they to begin the process of dividing the empire. Regina surely, in her  heartache and her oxygen tubes, could not be expected to rule such a large kingdom.

Her new palace was a quiet one. She lay on her daybed, never quite able to work the television. Not that it mattered. Her old palace had not even had a TV. So she lay. As she did each day. Reading King Lear for the nth time. She had asked her heirs to bring her more books. Her old palace had been filled with so many books that by the end, her daughter demanded they be rid of most of them.

“Mom,” she had ordered when she could stand protest no longer, “pick your five favorites to take with you and we’re going to toss the rest.”

“Don’t you speak to me like that!” Regina’s voice dissipated into the expanse of the hall. Helena was no longer paying attention and had already started out of the room.

The queen never talked of the night they arrived her new palace. She tried to seldom think of it, though that never seemed to work very well. But perhaps to her credit or perhaps to her age, she could at least no longer remember the details. Regina did not remember each of Helena’s individual wine-induced mutterings when her mother was feeling uncooperative. She did not remember (at least, not in detail) her son-in-law’s boisterous argument with the management when they informed him that the wine was not included with her Regina’s rent.

They came at holidays. Usually. The grandchildren visited. Sometimes. They swore that they cared for her. They rolled their eyes when she questioned their love. They swore that the queen was more to them than just the sum of her loosely-knit sinews that they believed might unravel in the wind.

A knock. And a moment later came forth one of her subjects.

“I just thought I’d stop by,” he smiled. Nikolas was a scrawny eighteen-year-old of five foot five, freshly hired and freshly pushed out the nest. All the subjects marveled at that little boy’s ability to perform the physically-demanding tasks of his job properly. They said he took Red Bull through an IV. They said his energy would soon diminish. They said he would soon grow weak and weary like all the rest. And the queen supposed they were right. She’d seen it happen to so many before. She’d watched the embers in their eyes go cold. She’d watched the callouses grow around their hearts as it became too draining to watch so many royals come and go.

But for now, Regina savored Nikolas’s wide-eyed wonder, pondering vaguely if there existed a way to bottle it.

“Hello, Nikolas,” she smiled a lazy kind of smile, one that tried but failed to reach the corners of her droopy eyes.

“How are you, Regina?” He asked.

“I can’t complain. How are you?”

He smiled, “I’m doing well. I’m trying to save money for – ” and it was the usual blaring noise of his radio which interrupted. That beeping which Regina supposed must haunt those caregivers in dreams. That aggressive and constant summons of many countries at once in need of his ever-strained assistance. And so he smiled. And departed.

Regina returned to her book.

“…we’ll live,
And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh
At gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues
Talk of court news; and we’ll talk with them too,
Who loses and who wins; who’s in, who’s out;
And take upon’s the mystery of things,
As if we were God’s spies: and we’ll wear out,
In a wall’d prison, packs and sects of great ones,
That ebb and flow by the moon.”

Regina sighed and looked out across the expanse of her kingdom and down at the fraying cover of the play. And wished she had happier story to read.

Dedicated to all the invisible Kings and Queens and to all the subjects who choose to see them.

poetry

If Atlas Shrugged

is it day or night dawning on the horizon?
blood across my eyes runs too thick to tell
i wonder each morning how the Sky grows
heavier in day when stars no longer press on me
i wonder, Sky. last century, i asked You why
but i’ve stopped asking why. i just wonder now
if bones should break beneath the Clouds
skin blow away in the Wind with all you many
card houses. i wonder if the Sky would
crush you too? would it fall on you? i wonder
would your diamond castles stand beneath
its weight? surely, they are stronger than these
snapping sinews. if shoulders buckled under
Sun should you be so surprised? have you felt
the weight of Day when Night still lies behind?
have you bowed before the burden of loudest
Thunder? gone down on your knees for a Storm?
i have seen everything i have done under the Sun
i don’t watch anymore as i fill the Sky with dew
is it day or night setting on the horizon
flood within my eyes swells too deep to tell