by J. Elmore
A compelling lyric about the throws of addiction.
There's a place that illuminates how slick the sorrows can be when they're poured out onto streets that once had destination and red lights that once turned green. Its buildings stand; tagged with names of the misinformed sprayed on with confused colors, it's window-frames display jagged glass of broken arrows. The homes are punctuated by one-ways and wrong-ways, stop-signs and empty lots. The deserted schools are punctuated by fast cars and luring liquor stores. Turn left and trample over the piles of buried dreams and promising puddles, through all the lies and schemes, past the lust and deceit and keep going until guilt hangs over the gaze into an empty bottle and then the river appears.
Constant rain falling into the river is what keeps it flowing. The droplets crash into ruptured ripples and get trapped in the dirty water. The endemic stream runs along stories of swallowing up whoever tries to navigate its unassuming currents. Some say that there is a light at the end of the river but some say that it's the very light that keeps them all coming back.
The river's flow is too romantic and real with its raging rocks daring to skip across before inevitably crashing into the surface and sinking to the bottom, it's ripples vanishing as quickly as they appeared. The rocks' throwers never think about their own fall.
They will fall in head first from rocky foundations along the banks. Some might even tap their toes on the surface at first only to eventually sink their feet into the warm clay at the bottom. The warmth in the clay is like a blanket at first, an organic blanket that covers the cold realities of being. It blossoms in the stomach then crawls out laterally to the fingertips, crawls down vertically to the toes and then rests in the chest making it hard to swallow. But the warmth doesn't last. It never does. So they take a step; then another; then another; going deeper and deeper wishing for the warmth to return but it only gets colder and colder as the clay gets harder and harder and the rapids get stronger and stronger. That's when their feet get pulled from the clay and the river runs over them.
Inside the river, life becomes survival of the fallen. It runs dark and deep over empty promises within a stream of careless faces; an ocean of intentions. The faces beam with precision, their pupils honed in on trying to get over as trying to stay afloat becomes top priority. And staying clean is always talked about. They scrub their flesh, oblivious that the water is what is causing the filth on their skin until they might be washed up along the banks. That's when they see the reflection of scars and scabs appearing on their skin on the river's surface and they start to pick at them. They dig and scrape and pick until craters of crimson tissue are formed. They see flaws that weren't there before and dive back into the river.
Once they dive back in they'll notice the remains: floating limbs of the ones who fell apart. They bob on the surface frozen in their last grasp at life. Some of the limbs are used as leverage and paddles. Others are used as excuses to never leave the dirty water.
The excuses are blocks and bricks that get stacked and piled up over the river until the river starts to flow inside a tunnel. Anything that matters is completely forgotten inside the tunnel. All that matters is the darkness that takes away the pain. Outsiders try and break through the relentless excuses only to fall in head first themselves. Some break through only to smell the waste, hear the screams, and taste the bitterness of the battle that has just begun as they see just how helpless they are and walk away, past the ones who camp out along the outskirts, praying for something greater to intervene.
The tunnel gets cluttered and crazy, enveloped in anxiety and hot with bad breath. Everyone scratches, claws and tears away at each other trying to peel away the madness of all the masked pain. Men swim over the women, women use the men, mothers lose their purpose and fathers remain faceless. The kids have to learn how to swim against the current and the current leads them to the lake.
The lakes are more crowded than the river that spills into them. They're bomb-craters of open sores peppered along the flowing gallows. It's occupiers often stare too long into its depths waiting for something to stare back. An unforgiving stare undulates on the surface, waiting to be consumed by empty thoughts; the engine that keeps them going nowhere. Its organic laws trap them so they age in a pulsing question of would could've been.
Insects of unbelief buzz over the lake and cling to the pieces of minds that never gave it a chance. Disappointment delves into the creases of pruning skin as dying becomes more and more present as a relief. Some see it as glory and some see it as karma, either way they all see it as an escape.
There is a few, every now and then, that make it through the tunnel and out of the lakes and use their faults and flaws as life-rafts to paddle out of the consumption. It was on an island of my faults where found myself. I was smiling, breathing, gasping for life and I started to hear something...voices encouraging voices. They shouted off love in the most mundane tones that cut me like razor blades.
I gathered myself inside a circle of looks, all of them were of concern and all were on me; the kid without a cause; a soldier without a war, fatigued on the front lines of discontent. They didn't see all the tattoos, the scars and the checkered past. They looked beyond the impulses and stream of carelessness. They just recognized that my puny voice was trapped inside a loud machine. They showed me how to dig.
I never asked if my father built the house that I grew up in. I know that he built the picket fence around it. I remember how much my mother loved the sky-blue velour couch in the living room. I know that my fondest sense of home was laying on that couch; my head in my mother's warm lap, her re-assuring eyes calming my worries, her magical finger-tips combing the hardness out of the day; how she'd circle and trace the same spot on my head over and over...Doctors would later call that same spot on her head the "cerebral hemisphere," it's where the tumor developed on her brain. I never asked my father if that's when he started drinking.
Those thoughts drifted away as I found myself back amongst the looks and, almost as fast as they appeared, they vanished. Then things got weird. I was left to myself, no longer a spectacle and reality hit me like a freight train. There was no one to misunderstand me.
I walked to the edge of the river. I stared at the wavering pathetic reflection on the surface. The same reflection I knew before, not the old one or the new one, just the familiar one, the one that was always hiding and lurking, waiting for the right moments. I hungered for pity so I turned my back to the river but then I lusted for fear so I turned around again. I wanted a better view of my misery so I started ascending to the top of a rock-face that overlooked the river.
It felt like the river was whispering it's warm promises down my shivering back as I pushed and pulled my way through thick brush and up the muddy slopes. The miseries didn't seem to matter as I made the muddy trudge to the summit. The brush was gone but it was then that I noticed the rain. The warmth was haunting me as I approached the cliff. The river was no longer on my heels, it was right below me. So I looked up. The light at the end of the river was right on the tip of my tongue.
My toes gripped the edge of the cliff and I closed my eyes. I inhaled deeply into my belly, tucked my chin and felt the river's echo twenty years below me.It pulsed like it always did. It flowed like it always did; dark; deep; beautiful. I looked down.
The concerned faces returned along with the heat of the sun beating on my neck. Enticing eyes opened on the river's surface, cut off at the noses, they bobbed with invitation. My palms were sweaty, my body was cradled in a clammy sweat. My stomach felt like a damp towel that was being wrung out. I shivered some more and feasted on the edge of my fingertips.
I blinked away the concerned looks boring into me in spite of the pain of regret I couldn't bear to express and finally blinked my eyes closed and exhaled as I raised my arms out like a cross and took one more breath of air as everything around me started moving terribly fast, I felt my face whimper as my head got heavier until I felt...nothing...weightlessness.