As I left the park, I noticed the weather changed drastically. For the few hours that I spent there, it was a relatively nice day. The sun was out with a few clouds here and there, with a decent temperature that wasn’t too hot but not too cold either. Seemed like as soon I set foot onto that cracked sidewalk that led me home it became dark. The wind picked up tossing old newspapers around like ragdolls. I could sense a smell in the air, the kind that sort of means a big storm might come through. I paused in my stride and stared upwards towards the sky to see the clouds coming in and grow in size and strength. Sometimes I like to just stare at them to see if I can make anything out of them. There was once this time where I could have sworn the clouds looked like a dragon swooping down on a small village. As of this moment though, it didn’t really look like much of anything. Just a large mass of greyish black misery that was about to open up on my head and release its fury. And sure enough, I felt a drop of rain the size of a marble it seemed. And soon after, I felt another splash on my eyelid in mid blink. To the average individual, this would be the warning to either take cover or run for the hills. But the genius part of my thinking process convinced me to stand put and take it all in. So I reached down to untie my grey sneakers one by one, and nonchalantly removed them by simply stepping out of them. I wasn’t wearing any socks, as I haven’t worn socks since I was in the sixth grade. (Something about dirty socks that can be seen even while wearing shoes bugs the living shit out of me, so I just refuse to wear them. Saves money; fewer clothes to wash. ) The semi warm and slightly dirty sidewalk felt so comforting to the bottoms of my feet, almost like they knew they were about to have some fun. As I stood up right and stretched out my arms to remove the black pocket tee shirt I was wearing, it began to pour. Cats and dogs fell from the sky. The rain came down in buckets, and I closed my eyes to enjoy every second of it. Most people flinch in a way when they become partially wet due to the rain, and usually I am most people. But as of that moment, I wasn’t most people. As of fifteen or so minutes prior to this event, Erik Houghtman ceased to exist. I was a different individual than who I was when I arrived at this park. Erik Houghtman droned his days away into the shadows to be forgotten and never recalled. Into the nothingness that is called day to day life. From that moment forward, I was just Erik and that was all that mattered.
I was sitting on a bench in a park down the road from my apartment, consuming my three course meal of a lunch that consisted of four or five cigarettes, when I began to wonder where my life was. With each light of the cigarette and with every inhale and exhale of what kept me sane on most days I realized that I was at a stand still. My life was barreling down the road and everything was such a blur that it never occurred to me that somewhere back there I made a turn onto some cul de sac and had been riding it in circles for quite some time. And for some reason unbeknownst to me the ride had stopped here leaving me dazed and confused in a dead end. It seemed like it was just yesterday I walked that stage and heard the cheers from my parents as I shook my principals hand with my right while grabbing my high school diploma with my left. Now I was slouching over the daily paper of some city of which I am nothing more than a ghost to with not even a full pack of a cigarettes in front of me in some park that doesnt even have a swingset, let alone a decent view, asking myself ‘Where had all the time gone too?’ Yet once I heard the voice in my head I soon realized I should be asking myself a more appropriate question. “What had I done with all the time?” But the more I though about it, the less I could recall of what was. It felt as if my spinal cord had become detached from my brain for this period of time and was suddenly attached again at this instance.
Not even the slightest hint of a memory from my past was present.
I came to my senses after I could feel a burning sensation between my index and middle finger, only to come to the understanding I barely smoked that last cigarette for it burned up in my train of thought. And surprisingly the ash had remained attached to the filter until I violently shook my hand in slight discomfort. It wasnt the first time I burnt my fingers smoking a cigarette, and Im sure from smoker to smoker it wasnt rare.I was a little upset that I barely had a drag from it so I lit up another, even though I probably had enough nicotine in me to kill a small bear. As I could feel that first hit flow through every fiber of my being, I noticed the cool summer breeze bristle around me. It swept through my tangled, greasy mess of a hairdoo and it was almost soothing. Its funny how things play out in day to day life. The universe almost knows your having a moment, so it tries to bring you back down to earth for just a second in the slightest way. Depending on ones mood, they can take it and flow, or they can drop it like a bad hat. In my case, I’m not very fond of hats at all. I was still hungup on my issues, but I knew there was nothing I could do about it. People forget things all the time. Granted not everyone completly forgets everything from there past in a blink of an eye, unless you have alzheimers, but these things just happen, I guess.
As my cigarette came to an end, I decided that so did my stay at the park. Apparently I was finished with the paper, on account that my last cigarette had dropped a cherry on one of the pages and burned a good portion of the material. And whatever sight I wanted to see before ceased to exist now. After all, it was a sad excuse of a park. It had one bench, no table, in between two trees that looked like somebody just planted twigs in the ground and strapped rope to the trunk to hold it up right. There wasnt a swingset or a slide, and it didnt even have a drinking fountain. And on top of that, it faced a main highway. Not to say that a twenty-five year old man like myself should be hanging around parks anyways, but thats besides the point. Instead of calling it “Westshore Park”, it should be renamed to ” Westshore Rest Stop”. Parks are places you can go to escape the real world and relax, not to hope to escape.
Friends, man, what are they good for?
I wait day after day for a friend to just call and say,
“Hey, man, how’s it going? We miss you so much. We need to chill, man, just like before.”
But my phone gets colder each and every time I check the home page.
No missed calls and no new messages.
My phone stays in my pockets and now my jeans are forming around where it sits, so even when my phone is out of my pockets it still looks like there’s a phone in my jeans.
I go through the pages in my phone book until there are no more pages.
I check my facebook day after day to only realize its been the same screen.
But in my news feed are new pictures.
Pictures of all my friends together and enjoying themselves and their company.
Picture after picture after picture after picture.
All of whom I called that same night with no answer and felt lonely.
So I came to realize,
That if you are not around,
And if you’re not in front of that cameras eye,
Than you don’t exist, you can’t be found.
Months go by and now my throat is dry from pleading for that friendly companion and communication.
And the phone rings warm.
“Hey, man, hows it going? Ive been really busy, but we miss you a lot. Man, come back home!”
Without a word I hangup the phone on its receiver cold.
Oh, the frustration I have with these people!
Those people who have no jobs,
Have nothing to do with themselves either!
And what person doesn’t have the time to text message people these days.
But before I point the finger, I should check the mirrors.
For I once was those and these people.
I once ignored my phone calls,
And I once existed in these pictures.
And if that is what it means to exist,
Than Id rather be make believe.
Because in make believe,
You cant die alone and unsuccessful.
Dirty, dingy boxcars that held that feeling of mechanical sprightliness.
The liveliness in past dreams that remind me that I hate myself less.
And yes those were my chains that are bound to the front of the train.
The stains are all that remains of the days when I felt all of that pain.
Purified fingertips tremble as they stutter across the fallen carts.
From start to finish of what resembled those years and how I fell apart.
My heart diminished those feelings but intensified my consideration for humanity.
The profanity that once thrived in my being is now miles from this insanity.
Sitting in silence on the pedestal I was placed on.
Memories on rewind in the back of my head like a VHS.
Surprisingly, the picture is still in perfect condition.
The audio, as crystal clear as the days I lived them.
Film still spinning like I just made the tape.
But I come to, and its all gone.
The people I surrounded myself with.
The environment I put myself in.
All gone in a blur like waking suddenly from a lucid dream.
And I miss every second of it for a second.
The life I used to live was like a never ending roller coaster.
Full of false happiness and misunderstandings.
As much as these tapes bring me back.
I wouldn’t go back.
Because the film that covered my eyes has diluted.
The pedestal I was placed upon was really a stake I was impaled upon.
The people that would come to me and lift me up so high were really tearing pieces of my flesh away to leave me unidentifiable.
And where I was was nothing more than a hole in the ground.
As much as these tapes mean to me,
I remember that it is just film in a plastic casing.
Something that isn’t permanent and that can be replaced.
My eyes and mind are the video recorder.
And my soul is the VCR.
There’s no explanation to why I feel this way today.
Maybe its the rain that falls on my cheeks day after day.
Perhaps its the sun that hides behind the clouds on these gloomy days.
Whatever the reason, I feel like there is no way.
And I can stand on the street corner all day long.
I can scream at the top of my lungs that this is why things are all wrong.
I can beg for passer-by to believe that I am not strong.
But what is the answer that I’m looking for with each song?
So what if people follow this leader?
I will still be the same grizzly man that lives in fear.
The birds still wont sing the song I want to hear.
Who’s really pulling the reins that I should try to steer?
And say they do agree with me; what would happen than?
Would they change they way I think or feel again and again?
Would I sit and sulk over the fact that these things still remain?
Of Course, because insanity is one hell of a state of mind!
And if this is so, than why am I still screaming?
What am I doing pleading these birds to start singing?
I’m still expecting that someone or something can change this feeling.
But the answer lies inside my days of dreaming.
Weeping shouldn’t be my main objective.
Ive wept time and time again into a collective.
I’ve played this game one too many times and its becoming subjective.
And I still expect it to be some different kind of sedative.
But the native result appears slightly different than the rest.
Yet the times before I tried to use my judgement at its best.
And I’m still standing on different street corners to protest.
I’m still hoping that this is some kind of test.
I cant expect someone to put the foot down for me time after time.
Expecting the conductor of this train will stop on the finish line.
These were my responsibilities that Ive pushed onto others to make myself fine.
Maybe the rain is really my sign.
There’s something about the weather when it comes to the deeds Ive done.
Because now I’ve noticed that the rain has gone.
And I’m no longer screaming or protesting or pleading for any kind of song.
Because the answer was within me all along.
My legs would throb violently as i sped down those dirt roads.
The wind would get caught up in my hair creating tiny knots that I would’nt notice until later.
tied just tight enough to where I could just slip on my kicks and go,
would dangle over the side of my shoe and over the pedals.
Practically getting caught in the chain as I rode that bike.
The sun would just be waking up itself and I’d be out the door on that thing.
Down the steep hill my house sat on,
around the pond down the street,
through the rocky, dirt roads the neighborhood was made of,
and onward until sunset.
I never had to call people prior to showing up on their doorstep.
Didnt have to email or instant message anyone to see if they wanted to hangout.
My feet would hit the pedals and pound the pavement,
until I got to that front door and knocked twice to ask parents if their kids were home.
I still remember the looks on their faces as well.
Almost disgusted that this long-haired, skinny-jeaned kid would dare knock on their door.
This was just how we all looked.
We all did the same thing as well.
And we didnt give a care.
Drifting along the delicately placed wooden floorboards of my grandfathers house.
Tip-toeing like a ballerina dancing on eggshells and broken glass.
My back is one with the wall of the hallway.
Flickering of a candle from my fathers old room.
Peering over the shoulder closest to his door,
I see myself playing with wooden toys from the man down the road.
A truck, a tractor and a sailboat.
And I see my eyes shoot towards the door while my head held still.
Feeling like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar I begin to retreat.
But the cold rush that took over my bones kept me in place.
And I could see my grandfather stand beside me in my fathers old doorway.
He called me son.
Confusion let me slide down to the wooden floorboards.
I couldnt wrap my mind around what was happening.
My grandfather has passed away,
Yet my body rests upon his old walls,
All the while thinking hes my father, and I his son.
And the needle is caught up on the break in the record.