I struggle to complete things. I am the kind of writer who often gives up just before an ending. I have written numerous incomplete short stories, essays and novels, leaving them for dead right before the end. It is a strange affliction that causes me a great deal of envy towards writers who are able to complete their works. It’s a muscle I lack. In order not to retire certain writings to the dump yard of all my other unfinished works, I have decided to collect below several of my most recent unfinished writings before I forever let them go.
So This Is What Grief Feels Like
How does a person’s childhood home live inside of them as an adult? I have just returned home after spending several days visiting my childhood home, where my parents still live. I’m sitting on my couch looking out a window into the backyard. The clock, which hangs on the wall, is making a sound that mimics my heartbeat. Or my heartbeat is mimicking the sound of the clock. My eyes feel slightly swollen from a few short-lived bouts of crying. I miss my childhood home in the same way that a person could miss a pet or a recently lost lifelong friend. I am aware that in my absence my childhood home feels emptier. Quieter. I know that it too is sad that I am gone.
One morning he awoke and his beard was gone. There was a note on the pillow beside him, which read:
A man, who cares about his age, needs to move out of the city, who cares about why. He moves to the suburbs, for reasons that I don’t want to understand. The only real problem here is the tunnel, which divides the suburbs from the city. After several weeks of living in the suburbs, the man, like most men, wants to go visit friends in the city. The suburbs are long, flat and lonely and for more reasons than I am wanting to go into here, the man desperately needs to spend more time in the city. Lets just say his mental health depends on it. Ok? But the problem that I previously mentioned is that he has a terrible fear of going through the tunnel. Maybe he is claustrophobic; I am not a medical professional so it is not for me to make that judgment. All I know is that the man’s inability to go through the tunnel is causing him to become trapped in the suburbs. It’s not a good situation for anyone.
Five o’clock, Sunday morning, is the quietest time on earth. Everything is still. No one is up- except for the insomniacs.
JTimothy’s mind was a web of noise. Solitude was not bliss. Instead it was an uncomfortable collar that felt too tight around his neck. His feet were like ship anchors dragged along his apartment floor. What use was flossing his teeth when all he did was grind them? The only way that JTimothy could get some semblance of sleep was by putting clean, white tube socks on over his bare feet. And even that was not sleep enough.
Rewind. Three years before. JTimothy slept as much as you and I. A dream filled sleep in the nude. Back in those days the mountains outside his window were still skyrockets filled with opportunity and mystery. They had yet become the claustrophobic walls that trapped him. The washing machine and kitchen table were still inanimate objects. Three years later they would become his best friends and chess partners. The insomnia set in before he consciously realized that his adult life had become intolerable. A constant steady flow of deteriorations, disappointments and humiliating defeats. As is often the case with most diseases, JTimothy’s insomnia knew more about JTimothy than JTimothy knew about himself. His tube socks could attest to this .
JTimothy’s apartment was once an alarmingly beautiful space. It was clean and looked like the kind of space that you could tell the tenant enjoyed taking care of it. From the outside you would never know that inside was a well-curated showroom for mid-century modern furniture. Most of his money from his often-suffocating job went into these objects of good taste. The black Eames chairs in the corner were his favorites. What use are the most stylish and aesthetically pleasing objects when you can’t sleep? The insomniac gradually loses the ability to see beauty.
Fast forward to where this story began. JTimothy in tube socks and yesterday’s clothes. It’s 5 o’clock on a Sunday morning and JTimothy is the only person awake in a sleeping world. Macaroni noodles are boiling on the stove. The kitchen table is already hungry. The washing machine is not yet ready to eat. Just the other day JTimothy had to take the washing machine’s drivers license away from it. The washing machine is currently engaging in a hunger strike against what it feels was an unfair decision to strip it of its autonomy. JTimothy became feed up with the washing machine not being around every time he needed to do his laundry. Ever since the washing machine received its drivers license it had been going out constantly with other washing machines. JTimothy knew that the washing machine had been going to parties and he was concerned that the washing machine would drink and drive. Or even worse- what if it fell in love with a dryer and ran away? He could not admit it but JTimothy was jealous. Deep down he was annoyed that his washing machine was having more fun than he was.
The insomniac can become very possessive. There were times that JTimothy believed that even the mountains belonged to him.
JTimothy paced around his apartment. What had happened to him? He listened to the hot water boiling on the electric stove. JTimothy’s insomnia knew that the reason he could not sleep was
The only place that the Driver feels safe and in control is in his car. This is why the Driver drives around and around and around. Day after day.
I know what your thinking. “Forty three years old and he has just written his first novel?” Before you jump to any unfair conclusions with regards to my ambition or will power please allow me to explain. But before I explain allow me to give you this brief list of novelists who made no money from writing before the age of 45: Henry Miller, William Burroughs, Tomas Espedal and I know there are many others but I can not come up with the names now.
If by the end of this short autobiographicalish story you do not think that I deserved to be called a novelist, fair enough. If you still think it is too late for me, that I have reached the expiration date as far as being a legitimate writer is concerned, fair enough again.
You see I have been determined to write a novel since the age of seventeen. No, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start where I am at now. The past is the past even though I understand that the past is as important to a writer as the present is to a Zen Buddhist. So let me begin from right now.
Waiting in a bathroom stall, after having had an impressively large bowel movement, for a man to finish washing his hands and doing his hair because I am too embarrassed to walk out because of the odor I have created. The man is taking forever.
I built a small space in my backyard where I can be alone. It’s just one small room- no hallways, no bathrooms, no furniture, no windows. Just six walls made of pinewood and a pillow for sitting. I enter the space through a hatch in the roof.
I wish I could invent a device that would make all bad bosses disappear.
My wife thinks I have a shopping addiction (even though I do not have enough money to have a shopping addiction). She thinks buying things helps me to feel empowered and in control. It’s a momentary substitute for the general sense of helplessness and lack of control that I feel most of the time, she tells me. I’m not sure I agree with her, even though in the end she is almost always right. However, for the purposes of this autobiographical essay, I will pretend as if she is always, completely wrong.
I don’t see myself as a shopping addict. I think the diagnosis is completely missing the point. Through years of study and exploration, I have developed a sensibility for the finer, more alternative things in life. In the same way that the archeologist has spent years studying so that she or he can identify and collect important objects, I have been refining my ability to
Chronic Pain (a memoir about a son’s life long struggle with a difficult father)
I was having a difficult time breathing. It felt like something heavy was resting on top of my lungs all night. As I sit up from a restless nights sleep, I struggle to breathe air into my lungs. It feels like trying to pump air into a bicycle tire that is almost full. My wife is still sleeping. She is wrapped up in heavy blankets, like a sausage inside a sourdough bun. I don’t feel rested but it’s 6:20am and I am ready to go.
My wife and I drove for six hours to visit the house were I spent my childhood and grew up into an angry young man. After thirty-five years my parents still live in this aging mansion, which sits on two acres of beautiful Northern California land. The house sits on top of a hill overlooking the affluent country club, which it is apart of. Twenty years ago I remember how upset my father was when the country club association started building larger houses in the oak tree filled hills behind his house. No longer would he be on top of the world- now more successful and wealthier people would be looking down on him.
It’s a cold November morning. Wet leaves cover the damp concrete ground as my wife and I load our suitcases into the back of our financed Prius. I’m too tired and sad to talk. I just want to get this over with as quietly as possible. Once we have loaded up the car with all our stuff we return inside to make sure we have not forgotten anything. As I look around I’m feeling a deep sense of grief. It’s been a difficult weekend visit with my parents and a part of me feels like this may be the last time I will ever return home again. I try to be as quiet as possible so as not to wake my parents. We have already said our goodbyes the night before.
Before retiring to bed last night my father came up to me and in his strange way tried to make amends for the fight he had started the day before. “We should talk on the phone once a week so we can improve our relationship son. I am who I am and I’m not going to change but I want to be your friend,” he said while standing a bit too much in my personal space. I admit, I felt threatened and annoyed. We were standing in a hallway that was filled with a history of my childhood battles with my father. “I don’t need you to be my friend, I need you to be a father,” I replied. “Son I’ve already done the best I could as your father. You’re a grown man now and it’s time to be friends.” I felt slightly confused and uncomfortable, like my father was once again trying to make me agree to something that was good for him but inherently bad for me. He gave me a hug goodnight. I told him to sleep well and with his signature negativity he said, “yeah I’m going to go die.” I knew that indirectly he was trying to imply that our dynamic had worn him out.
I stood at my old bedroom window and looked out into the expansive backyard, where I had spent so much of my lonely and unhappy youth. The same backyard furniture that I sat on as a child was still there and so were all the dangling bushes that I used to sing to while pretending that they were the hands of adoring fans reaching out to touch me. How can one be so sad, angry and unhappy in the midst of such beauty? I thought to myself. Did I even see the beauty when I was growing up? I turn around, turn out the bedroom lights and say to my wife, “Ready to go?” We have a six-hour drive back to LA ahead of us. Before I close the front door behind me, I take one final listen to the sounds inside the house that I love so much. I can hear the subtle sounds of the house settling. I can also hear the hallow sounds that a large house makes when everything inside is still. Upstairs, I can hear my father snoring and I imagine that my mother is laying in bed with her eyes half-open, tears on her cheeks while she listens to me leave.