I have given myself a decompression day. A day in a quiet town with just me and a hat and a coffee and a cell phone and the books in my backpack. I don’t feel especially interesting or especially awake, yet I feel the urge to massage some drippy black ink into my black sketchbook/notebook with its off-white pages and dark chocolate stained cover.
I left South Jersey with about a dozen photos and one deer tick. I was taking a shower and found him directly in the center of my stomach. It was like he was trying to tell me, “look, this is just WHAT I DO - I’ll at least make it easy to find me. OK, Champ?” First of all, don’t call me “Champ,” you goddamn walking disease bag.
The way he was so perfectly centered also brought to mind the idea of a painting of my stomach without any identifying features. The freckles would be there like discolorations on some newly discovered, very pale planet, the asymmetrical patches of hair would be scattered around like little brown weeds, and the tick would be the focal point, a tiny, imported invader that matches my color scheme and might add some interesting concentric circles.
I visualized this for about four seconds and then gave him a free ride down the drain and into the sewers of Tullytown. Fuck you. And don’t call me “Champ.”
I imported a wasp from Newtown into Langhorne. It left my car at the intersection of Lincoln Highway and Woodbourne Road. It seemed to take its time looking for a nicer car in which to take its next ride. He’ll find one, but they won’t be playing better music than I was. Best wishes, wasp, and thanks for not ass-stabbing my neck with your wasp juice.
Vampires are real. I’ve been close to a few. I spent that day in the Pine Barrens with my auntie and that’s one of nine million things we discussed. We also discussed the nosedive that my diet has taken recently (hello Wawa my old friend/I’ve come to milkshake you again), the beauty of Maine, the importance of not waiting for attention from those who are not readily giving it, the romantic idea of “The One” vs. the reality of lives lived with different characters in different chapters, the way one’s circle of loved ones reacts to crises. And butts. She was kind enough to point out two flocks of bikinied girls. (Like I didn’t see them already….)
We talked about the way that crises show us that most people don’t change. The people who are there for me now are the people who were there for me before. We were talking about how people with religious childhoods might be more inclined toward dichotomous thinking but true empathy requires an understanding that everybody has good and bad traits. Still, some people are healthier for you than others, especially when the shit has hit the fan. I love my vampires and they love me. But I’ve learned to listen to that sometimes faint voice of instinct when it says, “you did your part; now go do something for you.” That’s why I took this time to write. *tips hat* Hello.
A very nice lady came up to me on the bench in front of Zebra Striped Whale and asked how Marcella’s doing and how I’m holding up. She was pleased to hear that Marcella has such a big team of loved ones helping her and keeping her entertained. I noticed that she kept looking at me like she was waiting for one of us to say something profound. All I could tell her is that we’re trying our best and that I am learning things that I’ll take with me into the future. She told me she is praying for both of us. I thanked her. She came back five minutes later with a bag of gifts from The Jesus Store (this may not be the exact name). Just as I do while listening to gospel music, I looked past the religious symbolism and into the underlying human emotion. I don’t discard good will just because it’s wrapped in somebody else’s belief system.
I was surprised that this character from Marcella’s life recognized me. The Internet’s a funny thing. You make a commitment to the same hat for two years and - BANG - recognizable. When I was twenty-one, I felt like me. At thirty-one, I feel like me AND look like me. People can tell they’re talking to either a musician or, at least, a guy who wants them to think he’s a musician. Some parts of my look have been static for a few years. I’ve heard it said that people often freeze their look in the era in which they started to have a lot of sex. A lot of people in my hometown look like they’re waiting for the call from Bon Jovi about appearing in a music video in 1989. There’s still time. There’s still time.