Sunday, February 21, 2010

Disappearing Acts

This last morning in America I donned an old pair of gym shorts I found rolled up in a drawer and wrapped myself in sweatshirt and knit cap and drove down to the high school to run brutally cold laps around the track while the sun rose over the little tin stadium of Colton Viking High. These are the moments I feel I am at my human best. Frosty grass. Chilled air filling my lungs. Blue skin tight like frozen plumbs right out of the ice box, and my legs pounding out hard truths. I like to think these moments clear my mind, but they just fill me with ravenous thoughts instead. Memories of people I have known who have passed in and out of my life. As I have returned home to a previous life, I can’t help but think of the people who have put their hands and minds onto my body, who have shaped and molded and pulverized and created who I am today.
I have known souls who have chased fortune and power all of their days, chased respect and fame too until they have sat perched along mountain top thrones and laughed at the peons below. I’ve known others trying to live up to legacies of forgotten family kings and queens and who broke their bodies to be taken seriously by bankrupt peers. I’ve seen the trappings of material wealth: the house, the toys, the gadgets, the treasures, and sat in million dollar palaces and watched them turn to dust. I’ve run with the wild ones who have spent their lives looking for one person, rejecting everyone who wasn’t good enough and laid beside others who reject the one person that will ever love them and sought escape instead. I’ve thieved with people whose entire existence is revenge or to blame others for their misery, who cry, “You have broken my heart,” when really they broke their own. I’ve known all these. I have watched them, and like water in a stream, they are the rocks I have beaten myself against as I pass away.
As a boy I filled my life with art. I lived by the maxim that experience was worth everything. For good or bad, even if I played the fool, it mattered nothing, because I was growing, learning. I sought to be inspired, to cast my life like runic stones and read the fortune after the fall. Yet as a man I find those around me, those people I have grown with are miserable now. Those grinning fools, those laughing assassins, those fearless dear souls, they have fallen into the abyss of protecting what is theirs, begrudging all the aspects of their life that they can no longer stand. I want to laugh. I want to scream with humor, but no one laughs anymore. I think the world is a comedy but everyone around me is so serious, unto death. Who has wronged me? Who has stolen from me? What I have lost, given up, pushed into the recesses of the forgotten for the sake of others? These are their maxims now.
I wish it were as simple as this box I had when younger. It was a magic set I received as a Christmas gift. It had rings that would join if you clicked them in the right spot, and a blue plastic bag with a hidden pocket that would conceal an egg. It had a glass pitcher with clear insert that trapped milk inside even when poured into a newspaper, a cane that turned into a bouquet of tulips, and a deck of cards on a string that would return to my hand after I threw them in the air like confetti. But my favorite was this little box of disappearing acts.
About shoebox in size, there were two doors, one on top and another in the front, with a mirror cut diagonal inside so that if you dropped the little yellow plastic bunny in the top and tapped it with your wand, “Abracadabra!”
It wouldn’t be seen when you opened the front door.
Vanished... just like that into thin air.
I used to perform these magic tricks in front of family and friends. My grandparents would applaud, my parents would howl. Sympathy laughs, I realize now, but isn’t that what family is for. To smile and encourage even the most mundane, the most banal, to celebrate just for the sake of goofiness?
Of course, no one asks for those things anymore. No one cares if you can pull magic coins out from behind someone’s ears or if white doves are stuffed inside your coat sleeves just waiting for the right chance. Magic is lost. We live for only the tangible now. We live for what can be bought and sold, what can be measured, adjudicated, what can be put down in black and white. Nothing else matters.
So this morning as I climb the gravel road away from the track of my boyhood home after having run my laps and frozen my body to the point that only hot showers and tropical weather can thaw. I prepare to return to this land of language and culture that I don’t understand, to this place where I cannot pronounce the names of people I meet and whose food places bets with my bowels, to unkind cities and unforgiving and undecipherable laws, so that I can be alone. Quiet in my thoughts now, I am thankful that I need or want nothing. The only things I seek are those which have no names. Things I hope will find me surprised, baffled, perplexed and off guard. My true life, that comes to me in whispers, but leaves me in roars.

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