Closer Issue 9
Autopsy Of An Unfinished Life
This is my obituary, a work in progress. This is part of an exercise I learned in school which offers the opportunity to reflect upon my life. In the past few years, I left journalism for good, decided not to pursue teaching for the time being, stopped working for attorneys, left the copy shop where I produced STM and so forth. I fell in love, got hurt, fell in love with the same person again and been hurt again. Repeat. My dad told me that my mother had two other children, that I was the result of an affair she had with his brother, and that I wasn't his son. Then he told her he was leaving her for another woman (his first wife, natch). My mom killed herself and I found her on the couch. He kicked me out of the house about a month later, sold the property and most of the things my mom had wanted me to keep, fucked off to Idaho and died somewhere along the way. These pages cover nearly four years of my life and the tales are interwoven; they're more or less broken up by subject; they're all broken. I retreated to music, to making a place to hide from the outside world and get my head together. Instead, everything followed me in and didn't wipe the mud off its shoes. I've had my heart broken several times in the past few years. I've almost gotten used to it. I've blacked out and passed out, met people and gone to bed with them, only to spend most of our time talking about how we feel like we can't connect, like we can't trust. Like we can't love. Like the only comfort we can find is in fucking because that, at least, is relatively straight-forward. We meet, we fuck, we move on, or linger for a while over cigarettes and breakfast, maybe another date or two. Then it gets too uncomfortable and we disappear, trying to find someone else who might be able to fulfill some need we can't admit to having because it might make us too vulnerable. Yet here I sit, my heart on my sleeve, admitting that I seek people out in hopes that they might be able to alleviate my loneliness, even if only for a night. I love too much, and sometimes, I suspect, not well enough. I frequently fear that, with some of the people I have loved, our relationship ended because I was unable to give them what they needed, that I couldn't dress their wounds or stop the bleeding, that I couldn't put an end to their hurt, nor they to mine and, with this mutual helplessness firmly established between us like a rickety bridge made of rotting wood, lashed together with dried vines, we turned away, unable to cross it for fear it would collapse with the first step.
The post office flag was flying at half-mast today. I don't know who died. I was sitting in my car, caught in a particularly gridlocked parking lot, trying to get back onto the street. My window was down and it was a warm day at the end of summer, the kind which hints at fall's approach. The sun was hanging lower in the sky, just like my spirits. There's a small access road which runs parallel to the post office and as I looked over, I saw a kid chasing after a golf ball. Apparently, he and his dad had gotten just as sick of traffic as I had, but instead of waiting in their car, they pulled off to the side of the road and started bouncing a ball back and forth. My dad and I used to do things like that. As it is, I haven't seen or spoken to my pops in the better part of a week now. Different schedules. When I looked at those two, I remembered how it used to be, how my dad would take me to the public swimming pool. He would swim around and I'd sit on his back. Every so often, he'd dive underwater. In retrospect, the water was only four feet deep, but back then, it might as well have been forty. I'd hang on, take one last breath of air, and then look around, the chlorine burning my eyes and the lack of oxygen burning my lungs. I felt like a dolphin sometimes - all grey and slippery. Then I'd feel him start to swim to the surface. I was usually gasping for breath whenever we broke the water, blinded by the sun glinting off the midsummer ripples .
Going On A Party
She invited me to her party, so I went. I wasn't planning to drink, but I had a beer. I wasn't planning to smoke, but I wound up on her porch while about 20 odd people chatted in her garage. I was looking out over San Diego, listening to the power lines crackle at the sub-station, buzzing and popping in the cool night air. I was hoping to talk to her, yet I sat by myself, looking at the lights. She had hip hop on the stereo. I had the blues. I wanted her to walk up behind me, touch my back and whisper something in my ear. I wanted to hear her giggle. I wanted something more than falling asleep in my car for a couple of hours, feeling sick and wanting to throw up. I kept setting my alarm, reasoning that 15 minutes would be enough of a nap, and then I'd feel better. Next thing I knew, it was 2 a.m. and I had to be at work in a few hours. The air was crisp and clean; chilly, just like the end of summer should be as it forecasts fall's stealthy approach. Bruce Springsteen was on the radio, singing "I'm On Fire." I was in the driver's seat, watching the pale green glow of the instrument panel in the window as I came down the freeway, heading into the golden valley where all the city lights sparkled before me like cheap costume jewelry laid out in a pawn shop display case.
Taxis Make Pretty Good Slalom Cones
It's a grey upstate New York Sunday. The Yankees are playing tonight, provided it doesn't get rained out, and I'm borrowing a friend's computer to write and her stereo to listen to Guided by Voices. It's been a strange day, all cloud-streaked skies and nicotine, drinking beer and talking to the people hanging out along St. Mark's Place. It was an onion bagel with cream cheese and jazz quartet playing in Grand Central Station's Main Concourse kind of day. I caught a train in the morning, a local from Scarsdale, and listened to college students talk about "Catch 22" while I read about Phil Spector. I got on the 6; they followed, talking about poetry. Astor Place stop. I remembered it from being there about a year ago. It didn't really matter though. If I hadn't remembered the right exit, I would have been happy simply to wander through the streets, surrounded by the sound and the myths, the stories unfolding every second, the glances and looks, the random kisses floating through the day, waiting to catch passersby on the cheek. It's easy to fall in love with New York on a day like this, when the wind whips through the city, chilling everyone in its path, and the streets are still damp from the previous night's rain. Yesterday, I was soaked to the bone, feeling wet wool slap against my skin as I sloshed through the lakes which gradually flowed over the curbs. But today was different. Nothing really special happened. It was just absorbing the peculiarly gorgeous ambience of a city which is a sort of poetry about itself, describing swaths of motion and velocity, sweeping expanses of concrete and steel and the gentle flesh of people moving within its structures. I kept thinking about these things as I staggered onto the train back, bags of books and zines in my hand - Theodor Adorno, Hakim Bey, situationism, anarchism, a biography of Charlie Parker, back issues of Murder Can Be Fun. Kept thinking about the Jam's "Going Underground" as the tunnel lights flashed by. Then we came back up and I started looking at the Projects. Row after row, block after block of spirit-crushing, prison-styled architecture. The streets around them seemed full of life; the buildings defined death. It's as if the designers were trying to develop structures which were so oppressive and profane to the imagination that they would describe and, in fact, prescribe the course of one's life. I saw one young man staring through the black cast-iron fence at the train tracks. I don't know what he was thinking, but I imagined it. I also imagined the answering refrain which echoed back at him, ingrained after years and years of dark hallways, tall buildings with uniform construction and materials and no deviance from the form - you aren't going anywhere. I hope there was something in him that offered only a middle finger salute in response.
It's December 21. The days are getting shorter, have been for a while. It's still morning, just barely. Clouds scud across the sky, darkening the sun. It fits my mood. You left last night. I got home at 4:30 a.m. after talking with a friend for a few hours. I could still smell you on my pillows. I could still feel you in my bed. It's been about 10 hours and the dull ache of missing you is starting to settle into my bones. In any other year, it might be indistinguishable from the pain of another overcast, chilly morn. This time, it's sharper and deeper, colder and bluer. It's not just that I'm cold; I can deal with that. It's that I miss your warmth, your laugh, your smile, the way you look at the world. Your touch. It's that I miss everything about you. Watching you sleep. Remembering how I felt as you asked if you could get in my way while I was writing papers and then sat in my lap and typed for me. Remember when we sat on the roof of that building at the university and held each other as the sun sank below the horizon? I'll never forget it. It's been ages since I've typed these words in these pages but . I miss you. I'll remember the sound of palm fronds rustling in the breeze. I'll hold on to the rapidly fading scent on my pillows. And I'll hold on to your memory until I see you again. It's been a long time since I've seen the ocean, the sun glinting off the waves, cutting blinding swaths of silver on the water. I'll hold on to this shimmering image. Maybe it will help me get through.
It's Been So Long Since I've Seen The Ocean
You left early Thursday morning. About 1 a.m. You walked out and I packed your bag for you, trying to make sure you would have everything you left behind. Almost like you never left. Or maybe I just wanted it to seem that way when you unpacked again. The coffee cup I found for you in Arizona. The ring I bought for you in New Mexico. The trinkets we found when we were in Nevada and you were looking across the car at me. I remember you standing on the street, barefoot with my shirt hanging around your knees, looking over Lake Mead as the chill wind blew down from the hills. Your hand was warm, clasping mine in my pocket as we walked across Hoover Dam, staring down at the concrete and the emerald waters below. They still weren't as green as your hazel eyes. The fish swam up to the surface and I pointed them out to you. We watched them feed for a while, and then I spooned frozen yogurt into your mouth. A small plastic spoon, a smaller styrofoam cup and the coins we minted, the pennies we crushed for souvenirs. They were all in your purse. I kissed you at the end of the walk, stealing a quick one when it seemed no one was looking. People milled around, but we were in a corner and no one paid much attention. We walked back, your heavy coat scratching my wrist. We got back in the car, shivering. We stopped somewhere on the highway to Kingman to look at the desert. Now it's almost a week after the door closed. You don't want to talk to me. I can't say as I blame you, but you asked me to help. I told you that you'd hate me. You looked at me and softly said I wasn't going to help you at all. I dialed the phone and a few minutes later, you wouldn't even look at me. You stared at the wall, the ceiling, the stereo. When you looked at me, you looked me in the eyes and said "I hate you. Fuck you. Go to hell. Sod off and die." It's true, I betrayed you. I couldn't give you pills. I wouldn't give them to you. I dialed the phone and you hate me for it. You didn't say goodbye when you left. Maybe you said it a week or two before, in your own way. Maybe you said it earlier that day when we were walking along the beach. It had been so long since I'd seen the ocean. After days of the desert, I needed to see the sea. We rolled up our pants and took off our shoes, wading in the cold January water, throwing a tennis ball back and forth. I had the flu. You had the rest of me. You were still saying you loved me then. My feet got colder as the sand washed from under them. I watched you touch the mussels, running your fingers over them as the beach swallowed your toes. I asked you to marry me that afternoon. You said you could never marry someone you loved. Now I'm alone again, chain smoking and drunk, the bite of cheap, distilled pine needles faint on my tongue where your taste used to be. You could hit me again now. I wouldn't feel it. And I still wouldn't stop you from raising your hand. It's almost 5 a.m. I can't feel my lips, my face, my body. All the places you touched me are numb, not that they weren't already. The tendrils of yourself you wove into me are still tugging though, like vines. Just like kudzu. They've grown over everything and they're slowly starting to choke me. I sat in a downtown dive bar tonight with a friend, listening to old country songs on the jukebox. Looking for love in all the wrong places. You told me I was making a mistake, but I still don't believe you. Everybody says I should just let you go and save myself, but the letter you wrote me doesn't. You said you needed me. I've been reading it over and over, burning the words into me, memorizing them, the contours of your script. You said you don't need anyone who's no good for you, but no one else is willing to lose everything to help you because it's too convenient for them not to. I'd rather you be alive and hate me than the alternative you suggested because you may understand what exactly it was that I lost someday. Maybe you know now. Maybe that's why you hate me, because you feel you lost it too. What I keep trying to tell you is that I did it because I love you and you mean more to me than I do. My fingers are numb and don't want to type anymore, but the words I want to say to you keep coming. It's like someone wrote lines for me that I already knew, like all the right words were just waiting for the right time. It isn't time yet. The words are still forming, congealing in the darkness before dawn. It's always darkest now, before the sun creeps over the eastern horizon to remind me that everything can be renewed. You can too, even though you may never speak to me again. I hope the ring I gave you is still hanging around your neck. Hematite, on a cold metal chain, resting against your skin where I used to listen to your heartbeat. You may have forgotten it's there, but I still remember. So a benediction then, in the hopes that it may yet do some good - may you forget that I gave you these things and so continue to enjoy them and may they offer you solace when darkness rolls in. May these things keep you warm when it's cold and offer you strength when you feel you have none left. And if these items are already gone, thrown away in an effort to purge me from your life, may you remember that someone once loved you so absolutely that he was willing to lose everything you offered in order to save you. I doubt you'll ever read this, but if you do, know that I still think of you and I always will. I hope that someday the phone will ring and you'll be on the other end, your soft voice greeting me. "Hi goof." I may never hear those words again, but, much like the impending dawn, hope springs eternal. Especially for the foolish and those in love.
Should I Feel It
Feeling cut off and disconnected, like I'm on an island in the middle of a river and all the bridges are washed out. Feeling alienated and isolated, like I've been folded into a box and stapled shut for shipping. I feel like I just want to cut myself, slice my arms with knives and let the blood flow because anything is better than feeling like this. I want to tear at my skin and liberate myself from these bones. I want to stop feeling alone when I'm in a room filled with people. I want to stop feeling like a corpse, like everyone around me is dead and rotting from the inside out, gaily laughing as maggots feast on their innards. I want to stop feeling like there's nothing good to feel, like I'm alone and it will never be any different. I want to stop feeling this and start feeling again. I wake up at night, wondering how well my mask will stay on, whether it will crack and reveal the underlying fragility or whether its disintegrating papier mache facade will hold out for a few more hours. We all wear masks. We all adopt attitudes to act as shields against hurt. My arms are just tired from holding the damn thing up. My face is raw and scraped from where the mask didn't fit and rubbed it wrong. I want to let down my guard and take the slings and arrows and jabs and left hooks full force. They can't do much more damage now.
Story Of My Life
So here I sit at the end of what seems to have been the worst four weeks of my life. I'm still reeling from it all; maybe I'll write about it in these pages someday, but not now. I still need to sort it all out and plan my next move. I could write about it in vague, generic terms - words like pain, suffering, hurt. Sure, they all fit, but they're ultimately meaningless. In the meantime, I'm in San Diego and the alienation rains down all day and all night long, a foul black liquid which offers nothing but a chill which freezes the bones and blood. The late night conversations help a bit as I plan my escape from this and everything else, as I prepare myself to leave virtually everything I've ever known behind and try to create something new. It seems like it wasn't so very long ago that I couldn't listen to any of my records, that none of them meant a damn thing anymore and all the sentiments they expressed were hollow and empty. Lately though, as I've been wandering up and down empty city streets searching for something I can't identify, music has been the only thing keeping me going. I walked into the Casbah the other night, alone and depressed. I had been waiting for the Dragons to take the stage for about two hours and I kept feeling lower and lower, like I was sinking into something that nothing could pull me out of. Next thing I know, they're strapping on their guitars and tuning up. For the next hour and change, it was nothing but bliss. This band lifted my spirits at a time when I thought it was impossible. I laughed, I danced and yes, I suspect I was crying at times. See, their music, that night anyway, was salvation, a form I can't get anywhere else. No amount of drinking or talking or self-destructive behavior can equal the sheer redemptive capacity contained within a single power chord. I walked out grinning that night, elated at the spectacle and wonder. Maybe they're just a three chord rock band with a penchant for the Stones, but that night, there was something more. I walked up to the band members after the show and thanked them, because I needed the musical hand they held out. I've been depressed since then, but not as badly. I've been down since then, but not as low. There was something about bouncing around to the backbeat, the lovely 4/4 rhythms which fuel my days and light my nights, something about the guitars, something redemptive. Something that reminds me that everything can be all right. Someday.
The Color Of Television Tuned To A Dead Channel
I found my mom at 4:45 a.m., Wednesday, January 29, 1997. She was wrapped in a striped bedspread she had sewn for me years ago, its blue tassels frayed after years of use. Her skin was the color of the burned cigarettes she left behind in her ashtray, her head lolling at an unnatural angle. There was a glass of scotch on the counter, next to a half empty decanter and a bottle of sleeping pills. As near as anyone could figure, she took more than 50. I called 911 and told them she was dead, yet the paramedics persisted in showing up and telling us she had passed away. As if we didn't already know. The police came and asked questions, took pictures. The medical examiner showed up to take the body away. Even sitting in my room, headphones on, I could hear them zipping up the body bag and rolling the gurney out of the house. Then she was gone, with hardly any trace of her left behind. Just clothes, jewelry, photographs hanging on the walls. Now all of those things have been boxed up - some donated, others consigned to the dustbin of memories. Now it's like she was never here. All she left behind are lingering fears, loneliness and worry.
I drove by my old house today after I picked up my mail. Figured it was best to do it while I was feeling sick, that way I wouldn't ruin a good mood. Whoever moved in painted it, ripped out all the juniper bushes. They've got kids, that much I'm sure of, elseways they wouldn't have jimcracky skeletons hanging all askew in the windows I used to look out of when I was waiting for my dad to come home. I meant to drive by slow, but I wound up going by faster than I intended. It isn't my house anymore. It's nothing to me anymore. I've started calling this apartment home, as poor a reflection of that word as it is. It's a roof. A kitchen. A place to hang my coat and sleep. Shower and shave. It's a place where I can read, undisturbed. I guess that makes it home. I just wish it didn't feel so goddamn lonely, because a home shouldn't feel like there are ghosts in every corner.
Last Exit On Yesterday
I used to find faith in my security, in the belief that, although bad things might happen, I always had a safety net which would catch me like a bungling trapeze artist who leapt from the bar without first checking to make sure someone could catch them. It offered the luxury of nearly absolute freedom - someone was always there to help me clean up the messes I made. Now I'm 24 and the security I once enjoyed is gone and I'm feeling the pressure most people have felt over a period of years. The only difference is that my pressures have been condensed into weeks. Suicide, job hunting, relocation, making plans to survive the short term which won't prevent me from developing goals over the long term. Putting up with people who call me and put more pressure on me, some out of genuine worry, others out of ignorance. I used to have 20/20 vision; I felt I could see the future. I used to think I had the American Dream firmly in my grasp - beating the system, helping people out and meeting my definition of success and doing it all my own way without having to succumb to the degradations of the modern world, of the corporate world. Now, I've had to compromise. I work for a multinational corporation; I have for almost a year now. I was recently hired for a second job, this time working for an outsourcing business which services attorneys. It makes my financial situation much easier, but now I have to look for a place to live. A friend of mine went through the paper for me and tried to find places I could afford; right now there's a flat in San Diego which looks quite appealing and seems to be very close to where I will start work tomorrow. The ad mentions Victorian studio apartments with hardwood floors and the rent, for San Diego, is relatively cheap. It seems like it might be a nice place to live for a while, maybe a long while. There's just so much tension that it seems like if I stop to think, it will all come crashing down on me like the crushing weight of the deep sea, a pressure so intense that it turns flesh into jelly. So I take refuge - drinking, smoking, music. The songs have started to make sense again. The words don't seem meaningless and hollow anymore, which perhaps means it's time for me to start writing about music again. I'm actually surprised I've managed to write this; I haven't written anything which has anything to do with myself in ages. Not very long ago, it seemed all I could write about was my situation and grief and self-loathing. Maybe a line from Bruce Springsteen is most appropriate here - "I'm just tired and bored with myself." Or maybe it was that I didn't want to confront what had actually happened to me, that I preferred to immerse myself in pondering the state of my romantic entanglements because I could at least try to resolve those. I had the wherewithal to speak my mind and get responses, whereas the other things complicating my life were not nearly as communicative. Confronting my mother meant driving to Point Loma and screaming at a white marble marker in the wall of a cemetery. It meant coming to terms with a great number of things I'm simply not ready to fight yet, such as the knowledge that, without much doubt, I'll spend this Christmas alone. I've done this before, but never for this reason. Before, it has always been a choice to be alone, to spend the holiday watching seagulls cartwheeling at the beach or working 16 and 20 hour shifts. Now I don't have a choice. It looks like I'll spend the day drinking, perhaps writing, perhaps doing a design project. I think the uncertainty is what scares me.
You Can Feel Bad If It Makes You Feel Better
Thanksgiving Day. I figured today would be hard, probably tougher than any other day this year except my birthday and Christmas. These days are rarely good for me. Yet here I am on a day when I assumed everything would be bleak and depressing, and I'm glowing. It's really just that simple. I had been having a rough week. People had been extending invitations to me to join them for the holiday, but with the mood I was sinking into, I didn't want to subject them to my company. I had a great time at a concert after being depressed, and slipped back into depression just as quickly. There have only been a few times this week when I have happy without having to qualify it. Monday night when I went out drinking with a friend and we quoted song lyrics to each other. Wednesday morning, when I wandered through a downpour, getting soaked and chilled to the bone, feeling trees dump buckets of water on me. Last night, when I went over to her apartment with three bottles of wine and we talked until this afternoon. I thought I'd have a horrible day; instead I woke up tangled around her and vice versa. Instead, I woke up with her hair in my mouth from sharing the same pillow and her kitten at my feet, and my arms wrapped around her. I feel at ease, like the world is the way it should be. Once again, I'm struck by how fate happens, how it makes things happen exactly when they should, when people most need them, and how every time it seems that I simply can't go on, that I've been hit too many times to get up again to take more blows, that fate intervenes. I sometimes feel like I passed my second wind years ago, that the only breaths I have left are borrowed at a very high interest rate that I can't hope to repay. Then I have nights like last night, nights that remind me that I'm human, that the person I'm with is human, that we've all been hurt in such profound ways that it sometimes seems we can never heal or regain the innocence we lost. Sometimes. Then I think about the finger touching my arm, the lips grazing my finger, the person who I'm wrapped around. That's usually when I realize that while dreams are sustenance, they are frequently less delicious than the reality they represent, than the desires they reveal to us. Dreams nurse us through times when our reality simply isn't enough to pull us through. Sometimes though, our reality transcends what we dream, what we could imagine. It's rare, but it happens. It's almost miraculous, how fate rolls the dice for us and gives them a little extra tip when they're on the verge of coming up snake eyes. This year, my life has seemed like one giant crap shoot. I kept rolling the dice and losing. The point isn't so much that it was a losing game, but that I kept playing and didn't give up. I'm almost at the end of the year now - pretty much all that remains behind me is ash, empty bottles, cigarettes left burning as I walked away. I lost track of how many times Alex and I raised our glasses to 1997, the year, we always noted, that wouldn't kill us. It's the worst year on record for me, but for every tragedy, there's always a glimmer of hope.
Sitting quietly in the middle. Long months stretch on with no end in sight. And sometimes it seems like it's the 32nd of June or the 45th of October. I know these white walls well. I've memorized their cracks, the crenellated paint. I can pass the time any way I want. I can smoke in bed and stare at the ceiling for hours. I can sit on the couch and anesthetize myself with television. I can go for walks in the middle of the night and no one will wake up and ask where I'm going. I can eat cereal for dinner. And this is being single. It's leaving clothes where they fall. It's letting dishes sit in the sink. It's not doing laundry every week. And this is my life. I can remember the route but I still don't know how I got here. And I don't know why I stay. My finger traces highways on a map - escape routes, every one. This is a life of quiet desperation, of choking back screams and gagging on the bitter taste. And I'm tired of biting my tongue. Blood like copper in my mouth, on my lips.
Something Like A Life
There's a stillness in this place. It's a curious silence that only manifests itself in the finality of absence. I have known it only twice in my life - after my mother's suicide and after my fiancée's betrayal. Voices and words cannot penetrate its opacity; it is pervasive. It is something like a wall, shielding emptiness . nothingness . quiet desperation. I feel it moving with me . invisible to everyone. It does not protect me; it only separates me, like an invisible line over which I may not step. It makes me feel as though I only have a semblance of the existence that was formerly mine. It makes me feel as though I only possess something like a life. Of course I'm angry about it. I have every right to be. I once felt as though my life had finally stabilized; that, like a gyroscope, it had reached an equilibrium. I had lost my family in one year. I had lost a lover. I had lost friends. Some would say I nearly lost my mind. But last year, I felt that things were approaching normal. I had finally stopped drinking and smoking. I had begun to remember who I was. I was engaged to a wonderful woman. And then everything fell apart again. My fiancée treated me poorly; I discovered she had been having an affair with a man twice her age since a month after I proposed marriage. And the mirror fractured, splintering a reflection I was only just beginning to recognize again. So is it really so unusual that I can scarcely identify myself? The scars that were once part of my skin now seem alien and removed from my past. I question whether my face is mine; it looks much older and more world-weary than the one I knew. I used to feel young at heart and free. Now I feel as though I have walked for miles and still have leagues to go to reach a destination that I haven't identified yet. It's a journey which currently seems purposeless. If I learned one thing from the shoddy scholarship lumped together under the banner of postmodernism, it is this - anything may be taken apart and made anew. Although this theory was once used to destroy, who is to say that it is beyond redemption? Who is to say that it may only be used to tear down the past, leaving nothing behind but splinters and shards of glass? Who is to say that in examining the parts and replacing them that something equally wondrous may not result? Deconstruction is only valuable in what its peripheries suggest, in what lies beyond the boundaries described by inferior and jealous imaginations. It is only valuable in suggesting that we may repair the damage we have done; that what you and I once tore apart can be renewed with careful hands. I have to break with my past. It has been a long and painful process so far; from here, it will only get harder. I find myself standing alone on unfamiliar ground, unable to see the way back, unable to see myself. I can see glimpses of the person I once was - I can see the tattered remnants of fear, uncertainty and anger fluttering in the blast furnace breeze of the desert. And in the shimmering heat rising off the sand ahead, I can see who I will be. I know better than to dismiss this as a mirage; it feels too right to be another illusion. The boundaries are undefined, the path is unmarked and the distance is unknown. I feel as though I lost my shoes long ago, leaving my feet to be scorched by the sun-baked dunes, and have no choice but to keep walking or die of thirst where I stand. I refuse to give up. I refuse to give in. I refuse to believe that this semblance of a life is all that I will ever have and I reject anyone or anything who tells me that I should get used to this and accept it. I know there's something better ahead and though it may be out of reach now, it won't always be that way. And when I finally find what I'm seeking, I won't let go.