Ballast – Restful

by dschapman

When I was only a child I struggled in what felt like survival. Life was easy, then, and long ago – but it did not seem so easy then. It is a wash now, as it was always a wash. The countryside, covered in ice – I used it up, I drank it, and I burnt it to ash and moved on from it. Scorched earth, I said goodbye. On my bicycle I rode through the snowstorm and waited through the night on the island while the tide came in, my stomach empty and afraid. I was afraid of the dark. I was incapable. I pushed myself out of self-immolation until I was out of breath and my clothing torn. I crawled under the barn and I hid there, amongst cobwebs, while the witches floated slowly by. The powerlines, like massive pylons, burned across the sky and I listened to their constant hum; they dug up the fields for a pipeline, and I played in the mud, the neighbor had his way with me in the trenches; a little Rimbaldian baldness, a dirty third penchant for something else – as I walked, head down, so bored and confused. When I met my friend by the ocean we ran with bare feet through the sand and we filled up our pockets with toys at the boardwalk. We hid when we felt compelled to hide and we stood in the sun when the world was rising around us. The tractors sunk into the mud and the rain washed the dirt from our eyes. Smoke filled the rooms; we slid off the bricks, flesh and blood, down the hillside; and then, in the hay, with a girl, I was able to do what I wanted to do, and I found myself unable to do it. I had a girlfriend thanks to my friend and I thought that I loved her, but I did not even know her. I did not see her face in the light until many years later. And then I fell in love again and even then it was a real love, and I burned through and through for it. She is still alive and she knows me but I have never been able to explain myself to her. She is a part of a past I may never have had – something to so long ago it is not even secret, it is not even past. I could not impart it if I tried. The only people who would understand are grown out of it, as well, and with them their past, buried too. I rode the flood and I crashed with it. I speak in cliches now because I am trying to be honest. I am trying to make a case for myself and I must do so from the beginning. But the beginning is a myth. There were giants, then, a cyclops on an isle guarding the herd, there were titans that built their labyrinths out of stones the size of houses. I see them now and call them ruins. I brush off the feeling of the supernatural for the lost assurances of the open world. I can not see like I once could see through anything; I am met with the sturdiness of a well-driven life, insular and thoroughbred. When the mongrels walked the earth – what then? In the city streets, in the caboose eating hot dogs, we walked without noise through the mist toward the highway and slept there, feeling high. It was the 90’s then and I was only a child. The Russians came around in their black clothing and they raped the old broad on the picnic table. She loved it. They threatened us all. In the woods there was trash and we dug through it. What did we find? I found treasure. I played with my treasure and I hoarded it. The weather was cold and fresh and we ran through the woods and got lost in the woods. We came out in the middle of the night on an old gravel path in the middle of nowhere and an old man walked past us, limping, laughing, and he scared us away. I walked until the sun came up and then I reached out to my friend and I kissed him. I was relieved to see the sun again. I was simple, then. I was confused. Nothing was clear to me. I was charged with emotion and depth that was totally incomprehensible. I sat in the back of the auditorium and cried and cried while my girlfriend performed on a stage. I cried and I didn’t know why. I walked through the rainstorm to get to her. Storms were a common occurrence then and I made due with them. The world opened up all around me and I was swept up in the thick of it. Some nights I would sit in my room with the doors and the windows wide open and the stars would practically sweep in with the wind and wrap me up in the night, the frost would flow in past the glass to my bed and then chill me. Outside in the fields I could see the blue blackness of long, endless night. When your entire life is the sum of some five thousand days each night is much longer than they will ever be again, and only growing shorter; those were the longest nights, and the longest days, growing shorter. Every building was long and was once not even that – like a dream, before dreaming; ice cream? Computer screens? It was dark then. I could breathe very clearly. There were certainly things in the woods and they scared me. I fell asleep in the dark arms of something outside of me. How can I put it in words? It feels important to explain it. It is important for my own sake. The memories, it is more than nostalgia… I was nostalgic, then, when I was only a boy. I was thick with it, and I emptied myself out from it. It is gone from me now and I lost track of it. Now I am trying to drink it back up. I am distanced from it and I feel I have forgotten my secrets. A more tender world, a more sycophantic, open sky – in the crabtree, hanging by a rope – in the gardens, amongst snapdragons – the garter snake slips off the steps – saltwater laps at your lips; too cinematic?- or not cinematic enough – mercy, while I fall apart – it pulls me under… It is just me here now, and me alone. I am all alone now, and there is no one here to see me out of it.

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