Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Once outside, Kenneth dug into his pockets and pulled out a pack of Marlboro's and ignited a fire to extinguish his addiction. Kenneth pressed his lips into the butt of the cigarette and sucked hard as if it was his last breath and when he exhaled, he blew the smoke in the shape of O's. He hung his head and dragged his feet as he walked down the driveway and slowly he started nodding his head and then his lips started moving and the song that came out was the song that Kenneth always had playing in his head slowly creeping in with a beat that became his metronome, keeping time, keeping him in line, keeping him on the edge of madness when he couldn't get the words out of his head but keeping him grounded when he knew that he was still alive.

It's time to rethink every fact that is imaginable
Survival instinct dwells in a past that is inhabitable
I happen to pull fast ones over the slow parole board
Who likes to speak to de-fanged wolves who cry sheep
Time seeps into our skin, age indicates how long we've been lost in space
I keep putting expression-less upon my face
An awful waste of human skin who waits for Autumn to begin
My fall from grace, will do me in too late

Sage Francis spoke to Kenneth in this song in a way no one had spoken to him before and so he took those words and held it close reminding himself that he wasn't the only one. Just as Kenneth was about to dig himself into the a hole of self pity, a shiny red Jetta pulled up and stopped right in front of Kenneth. He peered in the dark windows trying to see inside, but only saw an image of himself looking for something that he couldn't see. Then slowly, Kenneth's reflection disappears and the driver rolled down the window.

"Hey stranger, going somewhere this early in the morning?" said the voice of an eager and attractive girl whose perky smile was a vain attempt to hide the exhaustion in her eyes. "Need a lift?"

"I was planning on catching the bus...but if you're offering, I'd be a fool not to," Kenneth courteously replied.

"I don't know where you're heading, but I'm not my way to this place called Chuck E. Cheese, heard of it? You know it's that place where kids get all hyper off soda and greasy pizza and go crazy playing ski ball just so they can get a plastic, cheaply made-in-Taiwan key chain of their favorite mouse Chucky that they'll cherish forever and ever as a constant reminder of their fun filled family day," the girl said in a super high, overly enthusiastic voice drooling with sarcasm. Her sun streaked ponytail swayed back and forth as she finished her slightly maniac monologue with a big forced smile and a thumbs up.

"Work getting to you Mel? Kenneth asked laughing at his coworker and friend's exaggerate yet true description of their summer job.


For those of you who have followed Manhattan Lovers, I thank you and implore your patience as I take a break to share a story that will appear in a series of posts that I wrote while in college about people I experienced some amazing times with. I feel that now is an appropriate time to share this story in memory of a friend who recently passed. With this story I honor him and the life I was fortunate to share with him and the life that unfortunately he was unable to continue. My heart goes out to him.

* * * * * *

Kenneth's hand fumbled in the darkness and met cold textured drywall until his fingers grasped a small plastic switch and with a flick of his wrist, he was forced to adjust his eyes to the light. In his refection, Kenneth confronted a tired, run down version of himself staring blankly in the mirror. It was just past six in the morning and Kenneth was getting ready to go back to the job he got off from less than seven hours ago. Upon completing his morning routine, Kenneth inspected his smoothly shaved skin to make sure he didn't miss a spot; he checked the other side admiring his work, considering that he hadn't shaved his armpits in awhile, he did a pretty good job. He put both arms down and rubbed his silky hairless armpits together sending a shutter down his body that made it's final stop in the crotch of his pants. A smug look passed over Kenneth's face at this unexpected morning stimulation. Maybe I should shave more often. Kenneth slipped on his red polyester shirt and straightened his navy blue and yellow checkered collar. Kenneth pushed his wire rimmed glasses up on the bridge of his nose, looked at himself one last time in the mirror and with the flick of a switch, he made his way down the hallway, pass the closed door of his parent's room and on his way to work.

Friday, September 25, 2009

18. Living The Dream.

The day Charles Marshall found out Linda Baker was pregnant would be one of the happiest and saddest in his life although he would not immediately notice it because he welcomed the day like any other day: to the pitter patter of paws marching on his bed in attempt to awake him from his slumber. Charles rose to reward Sparrow with breakfast for being the perfect alarm clock, not too obnoxious, but always consistent then begrudgingly began to get ready. He pulled out a razor and inspected his skin, aside from a little stubble around the edges, he looked pretty clean, but decided that a closer shave couldn't hurt. When Charles finished his morning routine, he ascended the stairs from the basement and entered his mother's kitchen. Upon seeing her hard at work at the stove, he came up behind her, gently squeezed her shoulders and gave her a kiss on the cheek. They did the same song and dance they always did as Charles offered to take over cooking while his mother insisted that he relax, Charles telling her he just woke up and her telling him that he needs some coffee first, not wanting her bacon to get burnt on account of him being too tired. Ultimately, they both knew that she would always make the breakfast, but she liked that he offered to help.

After doing his chores around the house, Charles went for a 7 mile run before getting ready to go to the pizzeria. He knew his 5 hour shift would fly by because all he would think about was being with Linda after work. But to his surprise, when he got to the restaurant there was a note taped to his locker summoning him to see the boss. Charles the eternal optimist walked into his boss' office with a smile on his face as a lowly worker and after 20 minutes emerged whistling as the new assistant manager! Charles knew that this was the first step to living the dream. He couldn't wait to tell Linda. Had he known Linda was going to tell him she was pregnant and the child wasn't his, he would have gone home to share the news with his mother so they could savor the moment together. Instead he found himself sitting with his head hanging low listening to the lies from the woman he loved, seeing his future fall apart before it even began.

Friday, September 18, 2009

17. Metallic Money.

Charles Marshall always had money on his mind; perhaps it started when he went to the US mint on a school field trip and he felt the same wonder and excitement as Charlie touring the chocolate factory and he watched in awe at the intricacies of the minting process. This fascination was further cultivated by his grandfather who had a very special coin collection that he shared with Charles so to this day, he could recall in specific detail the history of every one of those coins.

As Charles got older and realized the value of money, he was determined to make as much of it as he could. His incredible work ethic wasn't taught to him by his parent, but rather it was due to his own desire to earn copious amounts of money. It was because of this that he was steadily employed since the age of 12 when he obtained a paper route, then started his own "landscape" company where he went around the neighborhood soliciting work to trim hedges and mow lawns, and then became the neighborhood dog walker until he was 16 and able to earn a real paycheck as pizza delivery boy. By that time Charles had amassed a small fortune for a teenager in the sum of about $1,000.00, but rather than spend it foolishly on sports magazines or baseball caps or any of the other delights for boys his age, he kept all his bills and coins in a shoe box under his bed knowing that someday this money would come in handy.

Despite his passion for money and obtaining wealth, Charles was a simple man who wanted nothing more in life than to have a loving wife and a healthy family whom he would nurture and care for and nothing would make him happier. He had no ambition to go to college after high school and wanted to maintain his constant but menial work, perhaps not as a delivery boy, but something where he could make an honest living and stay close to home. So when Charles started dating Linda Baker at the age of 17 and found himself falling in love with her after she seduced him into bed, he began imagining spending the rest of his life with her.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

16. Towards The Light.

Imagine Trevor's surprise when he found himself standing in the doorway to his apartment wearing nothing but his candy cane boxers screaming Juliana's name as she walked away from him. As the pain in his voice grew with every last call, he knew that she would eventually look back, but Juliana kept on walking focusing less and less on a sound gave her the feeling that someone she once cared for was calling her name, never looking back. The incredible irony of the situation would have been apparent if Trevor knew the history of his mother but this fact was lost due to the orphanage where Trevor grew up being burned to the ground by his own coaxing of an impressionable friend. Although it became more and more clear that Trevor's years of using and manipulating people was finally catching up with him because had this happened to someone else, Trevor would have loved to use these circumstances to his advantage.

As Trevor stood half naked in the hallway watching Juliana leave, he was left with an overwhelming feeling of not sad, but what he could only describe as utter confusion. Trevor always thought that the discovery of the subject of his second book would be the reason why Juliana would leave him and he prepared himself for that yet he never thought he would get so attached to Juliana. The only reason he pursued this relationship was because he saw potential in her as material for his book but nothing more. The fact that Trevor had recently toyed with the idea that Juliana may be "the one" perplexed him to no end.

Trevor's outburst was a momentary lapse in his overall composure and when he realized how his emotions led him to act so foolish, he sheepishly looked up and down the hallway, covered his crotch with his hand even though it was already covered and slunk back into his apartment. As he closed the door, he picked up Marley, his short haired black and white cat and absently stroked him as he sat on the couch to logically reason his next step. But when Trevor was unable to see any acceptable path forward he decided to take a step back and look down the path that got him to this precipice. Upon closer examination of the situation, Trevor was beginning to see a light,albeit a dim light, but it was illuminating a darkness that, unbeknownst to him, was surrounding his very being. As Marley kneaded and clawed on his shoulder losing himself in a temporary euphoria, Trevor focused his eyes on the grooves in the floor board as if trying to see the picture in an autostereogram to search the patterns within the frame to find new life in the image. Trevor focused and unfocused his eyes until he could plainly see that the face that was portrayed in the picture was none other than his father Charles Marshall.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

15. Name That Feeling.

Toby Steward adored Trevor in the unique way that little boys do as they form their first male bound when they discover another person who also thinks it's funny to put lizards in girls' shoes and roll with laughter when they hear shrieks and screams as tiny toes are intertwined with scaly bodies. But more than that, he was attracted to a quality in Trevor that he could not yet pinpoint but he knew that it was something desired. Being around Trevor made Toby feel like he was a part of something bigger than what was going on in the orphanage, being with Trevor meant you were important, admired, and above all else meaningful. Toby would later learn that it was confidence that Trevor displayed so naturally and effortlessly that it attracted people like himself who tended to be timid and modest, alone and looking for someone to hold onto to; something to belong to. And as it was, the orphanage was filled boys like Toby and they all flocked to Trevor, perhaps because he never outwardly showed his fear and insecurities about being discarded as a child yet he was sympathetic to their darkest pains and could identify the origin of their trepidations. No one would ever know that Trevor harbored the same anguish as everyone else because he knew how to bury his feelings and turn it into the confidence that gained him so many followers.

Why Trevor picked Toby Steward to be his sidekick was not obvious to outsiders, nor was it blatant to Trevor, but he saw something in Toby that he would later see in Jules Mitchell, his best friend in prep school, and Morgan Tam, his roommate in college, and his current girlfriend, Juliana Ernst. Like Toby, Trevor was unable to articulate what he saw his is new pal, but when he was able to easily convince Toby to set fire the dry brush in the school yard just to see how far the fire would spread and then when it ultimately burned down the entire orphanage and Trevor completely washed his hands clean of his involvement, Trevor understood just a little bit more that within Toby lay a weakness that he could manipulate for his own advantage. As he got older, Trevor continued to fine tune this ability, so by the time he met Juliana he had expertly cultivated a trait that he used with ease and grace, he did it so well in fact that he convinced even himself that he wasnt' doing anything wrong, although there was always a lingering weight on Trevor's shoulder that he couldn't quite place and although if you if could correctly identity the feeling, he would name it guilt.

Friday, September 11, 2009

14. Picture Perfect.

Trevor and Juliana walked down the street hand in hand, they had just celebrated their 6 month anniversary by dining at the same establishment, ordering the same entrees, and gorging themselves on the same alcoholic beverage to recreate the night they first met. Of course it was all Juliana's idea, if Trevor had it his way, they would have gone to a slam poetry reading and sit in a dark bar while drinking wine and getting intoxicated from the lyrical rhythm of words. But when Juliana scrunched her nose at the thought of a crowded, smoky hole in the wall with the type of people that intimidated her, Trevor dropped it and conceded to her perfect albeit duplicate evening. Since Juliana overindulged herself with drinks and had to hold onto Trevor's arm as they walked home, he knew it was the perfect time to ask to see her journals.

* * * * * *

When they first met, Juliana fawned over Trevor like she was a star struck groupie hanging out with the band after the show, and while Trevor liked the attention, he did find it rather odd. He often wondered if her enthusiasm was sincere until one night after they finished off their second bottle of wine, Juliana confessed that she was in awe that he was a writer and had always dreamed of becoming one until her creative writing teacher in high school made an example of her poor writing style and weak metaphors that put an end to her ambitions. Trevor listened to her story and saw it as a motivator, had someone made a fool of him like that, he would have taken those words of discouragement and the sneers from his classmates and created something so big and powerful that it would explode onto their psyches so they would never laugh at him again. He would make everyone understand the true power of words and how he could manipulate them and use them to hurt and disgrace others just as he had been shamed standing in front of the his class, redden with embarrassment. Yet as he nodded emphatically while holding her hand as Juliana shared her broken dreams with him, Trevor knew that this was exactly why he stayed with her, because she was so different from him, his exact opposite but in this case opposites didn't just attract, they created a chemically charged reaction that shattered into all the little pieces of what would be his next book.

Since that fateful day in high school, Juliana shelved her desire to write and started recording her thoughts and feelings in a more visual way. She first had the idea one day when she was thumbing through a Seventeen magazine and in between an article for What to Wear Now: 10 Must Have Looks for Fall, where items of clothing and accessories were pieced together and displayed by nonexistent bodies and Confessions of an Online Dater: Real Stories, Real people, Real Love, Juliana saw an ad for a new reality show called A Montage Called Life. The ad was a collage of seven people from vastly different backgrounds crowded around a big question mark that boasted: Where it's ALL Coming Together: Are You IN? Juliana fixated on the ad getting lost in the kaleidoscope pull of the composition and her mind began wandering as she invented stories about who these people were and realized that this was her medium for storytelling and so she made her first montage that day that depicted her raging teenage emotion. She found an anti fur campaign ad that had red paint spilling down a framed picture of animals and asked, "Would you like some blood with your fur?" She just cut out the picture and left the slogan because she didn't care about the message, but she felt compelled by the picture, each animal looked pained but acquiesced to accept their fate, a feeling Juliana felt her entire life but would never be able to express in words and so she continued to create montages of her life for the past 10 years, yet she never shared them with anyone before. As she handed the first book to Trevor, her heart burst with love because not only was she finally sharing a piece of her soul with someone else; she was sharing it with the man she would spend the rest of her life with.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

13. Looking In.

She was the stereotypical image of what American beauty was modeled after, she was tall and thin with just enough muscles in her calves and arms to be considered tone but not bulky, her hair cascaded down her back in light brown waves to frame her oval face and compliment her pale white complexion while accentuating her deep green eyes that sparkled with flecks of gray to give her a haunting yet inviting aurora. Perhaps it was because her womanly curves didn’t sexually stigmatize her until she was just beginning her second decade of life that she didn’t play the field and use her appeal to chase men and delve into her carnal appetite that always tempted and teased the forbidden fantasies that she kept tucked away because she knew it wasn’t proper for a woman in her social position. Or maybe it was because she found the love of her life when she was just 16, that Julie Deacon never knew that men could be the source of utmost please and happiness and also the cause of hopeless despair and overwhelming grief. She believed in true, soul mate love and trusted in the vows that she took when she was 19 that in sickness and health, good times and bad, she and Bill would stay together. So when after 22 years of marriage, Julie Deacon found out she had breast cancer, it never crossed her mind that Bill would leave her. But as it was, she found herself sitting in a cold, sterile hospital room at the end of her first chemo treatment listlessly staring out the window wondering what went wrong. She vaguely noticed her three adult children walk into the room and sit beside her as she continued to process the events that transpired to end the life she built for herself. Julie gave the occasional nod and smile as her children chatted about their kids and jobs and office scandals in every effort to keep their mother’s mind occupied to prevent her from asking them the inevitable question about their father. Julie’s mind often invented reasons why her husband chose that particular moment to leave when he did.

* * * * * *

Elizabeth Marshall's face flushed as she put Tales of the Upper East side: An Inside Look From An Outsider, her son's first best selling book on her end table. She tightened the shawl around her shoulders and stared out the window and watched as heavy drops of rain fell and ricocheted against the leaves of her favorite orchid plant. Elizabeth studied the crystal balls that lingered on the purple and white striped petal of her prize winning Paphiopedilum Fairrieanum before free falling to the ground where it mixed with the earth. It was in this moment that Elizabeth Marshall realized that her body mimicked the storm brewing outside as she her own tears began to fall, slowly at first and then unrestrained and uninhibited as she released the pain of memories she buried long ago about family secret that were never supposed to surface; and the betrayal of the only child she ever had, a son she cared for when no one else would; and the sadness that consumed her tiny frame as she heaved and sobbed searching her mind for reasons why Trevor chose to expose and hurt her in such a public and extravagant way, but above all else she wondered what she ever did to deserve this.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

12. Unconditional Love.

Melanie Wakefield often thought about how she would die. Her visions of death could be trace back to when she was only a child and found bloody pieces of her pet rabbit scattered around her back yard. As she unhinged the gate that led into the yard, she thought someone had sprinkled rose petals on the lawn in some grand romantic gesture that she didn't yet understand but saw on TV. Melanie approached hesitantly because on some baser level she could tell that this was a situation that required utmost caution. She squinted through her thick glasses and brought her face but an inch away from one of the pieces before slowly realizing that the raw, pulpy mass of bone and guts somewhat resembled her rabbit's paw, yet she never quite understood why Bugs, her snow white bunny that was a gift from her grandparents on her 4th birthday had suddenly come apart and turned red. Being the kindhearted, intuitive person that Melanie was, she knew her rabbit was hurt and wanted to help him get better so an hour later, Melanie was covered in the bloody tissue of her dead rabbit as she gathered the body parts and tried to piece her pet back together. When Luna Wakefiled walked out to the disturbing scene she choked on the dread and fear that was slow making it's way up her throat as thoughts filled her head of her sweet little baby girl performing unthinkable, inhumane acts on a poor defenseless animal and let out a scream that pierced the ears of dogs 100 miles away.

The fatal outcome of Bugs was the culmination of the stars lining up at just the right position that set aim to Bugs' cage and released him from his imprisonment so he could enjoy what would be the last moments of his life unfettered and free. As Bugs roamed the grass and nibbled at his freedom, a stray dog scaled the wall that surrounded the Wakefield house to protect them from the evils of the outside world. The possibility of an animal breaching this secure barrier and causing harm to the furry member of the Wakefield family had never crossed their minds, they focused on the human members of their family never considering that an ill done to any member of their family could penetrate the sanity and sanctity of life as they knew it.

Yet Peter and Luna Wakefield would never know that their property had been invaded by a scavenger beast because upon seeing her mother, Melanie started clapping her hands and spraying drops of blood around the already saturated yard and proudly taking credit for the masterpiece she created saying, "look what I did Mommy, look what I did." Whether the miscommunication was due to Luna Wakefield's already shocked and battered state or her inability to ask the right questions for fear of her daughter's answer or denial of the situation and inability to take responsibility, she took her daughter to mean that she tore the precious body of her pet into little pieces. And when her daughter ran to her, arms extended for an embrace on a job well done, Luna Wakefield turned away and never looked back.

As Melanie watched her mother walk away, her prideful shoulders sagged and her winning smile was clouded with confusion as she wondered why her mother didn't praise her for putting Bugs back together. Luna would never look at her daughter the same after that day and as time went on her love for her daughter slowly waned until eventually there was nothing left inside of her. She was completely void of any feelings for her daughter and became consumed with self hated for creating a despicable creature that could destroy life so viciously and careless. It was because of her mother's unexplainable disregard for her that Melanie never understood what unconditional love was and would never feel the bond that a mother has with her child because when Melanie became pregnant and had a son that she named Trevor, she did the only thing she knew to do when things got rough: she gave him away and never looked back.