“How can someone ever see me through the ages, how can they feel what burns inside my heart and yet be ages apart in culture, in lifestyle?”
Glenn found himself meditating once again in the depth of Walt Whitman’s verses, once again lost in ethereal nebulas out of the ordinary human experience just as he always had.
“One day, boy, you will need to come down to the Earth with the rest of us mortals, people who feed on thoughts and ideals starve!”
Grandpa Jimmy was always concerned, he might have looked like a grumpy old man but he cared for the young poet, as a third generation farmer he knew the earth was faithful to those that plant and harvest with discipline, and the young boy did not exhibit an interest for the fertile soil in which he was blessed to be raised, like his father he seemed quite drawn to the abstract, to what the old rugged man considered “pretentious occupations”.
But despite this concern and this wariness, the old man himself would go to the second-hand bookstore on weekends and fetch a title for his grandson, as it seemed to be the only medicine for the incurable sadness that the boy seemed to have inherited from his deceased mother.
“I miss the old man, he knew so much more he took credit for.”
Old Jimmy was an intellectual of the land, a Diogenes of the academics, purposely casting himself aside from
their circles as the ultimate critique and embracing the land as the most primitive of our ancestors did.
It was true, old James Nowak had his time of endless intellectual discussions and garnered great admiration among his town fellows. A man who most thought would grow to be the town’s Mayor, make it to congress or even more. How he ended up embracing the fate of the common man in his village, no one really knew. But some of the embers of his youth remained, enough at least to be able to understand his fragile grandchild: deep inside he saw a great spirit and a deep vocation.
“I’m not a boy anymore, would the old man be proud?” – Glenn thought, returning back to the busy street in Manhattan.
All these thoughts were like a short film, repetitive and chaotic but well assembled, they seemed to make sense in some aesthetic way, you could play music from Einaudi as a background; he walked down the street with nostalgia. He stopped at the dry cleaning, the audience would not forgive him if he showed with the wrong attire, he had made a name for himself and needed to live up to the expectations of his fans. This business he entered did not forgive imperfections.
He entered the venue, and passed through the backstage door.
He took a deep breath, this one presentation could open a new door, maybe a way out, maybe a way to make old man Jimmy truly proud.
A loud, electronic music began playing and then a semi-distorted voice of the announcer:
“And now, ladies, from the farming countryside of Cole, Missouri! Two hundred pounds of muscle, sweat and testosterone just getting off the tractor and ready to show you ladies how a good country boy earns his living in the big city! Give it up for Glenn Nowak!”
The crowd became ecstatic as the dancer approached the stage and began to loosen his shirt to the sound of the provocative tunes.
“Fuck this, he’s the stupid one, he’s the useless one!”
Marco slammed the door, as a loud voice kept yelling unintelligible words, words that couldn’t be grasped, but whose sound could be understood by anyone, in any language.
As the distance grew and the voice faded, the boiling anger in his chest started to hurt him, betraying him, because he was keeping it in store for the bitter man back at the cottage, who clearly wanted him out of his life, but couldn’t bring himself to abandon him.
Marco believed this inability to act on his real feelings wasn’t a matter of decency, but plainly a fear of rejection, it was a small town and single parents were frowned upon, let alone one who abandons his teenage kid.
-“If he isn’t bold enough to leave, or kick me out, I will leave instead, I’ll find something, I’m old enough to make some money on my own.” He murmured as he hastened his pace and clenched his fists.
But he knew better than this, he was a good student with top grades, and he also had a very detailed plan for his life. Deep inside he knew this rejection, this constant reproach was his curse to bear, his price to pay. If he just managed to hold on for a couple more years he would go to college, miles away from the home that wasn’t a home any longer, but barely a shelter for the homeless; that is, himself.
But he walked, he used to walk. More and more, his weekends were becoming lonely walks, talking to himself and building fantasies. In these day dreams he became smarter than anyone else, he became wealthy and successful, he could see himself returning to town driving a car like no one in that miserable place has ever seen, and buying the biggest farms, just to let every crop wither, every animal die, and not a single soul would be able to do anything about it for he was now the owner and master of that stinky place.
-“Imagine the old man, making up excuses, ashamed, trying to explain why his son is such a disgrace, such a ruthless bastard”.
As time passed, the anger slowly evaporated, and when he was far from everything, he would let the pain take over and cry where no one could see him. He would just sit and cry by the creek because once he did, he felt like he was able to make it through another week.
Those tears, he thought, were like scales in his eyes that blinded him and wouldn’t let him see things for what they were; for it was only after dropping them on the grass that he would start noticing the small things he knew he would miss once he departed for his new life: the colorful birds chirping, singing and dancing like the ancient ancestors summoning the rain; the flowers enduring the wind, never defeated by it, and the wild hares who seemed to always be plotting schemes just like he did during his lonesome afternoons.
But this time, something was different. After the blinding tears came out, it felt like the air cleared and all that surrounded him, even nature’s ongoing celebration had stopped and became solemn, and silent. This made him feel uneasy, but also moved him into action, so he started walking further than usual.
After a few minutes, he approached the abandoned mine, a ghostly place that served as a natural boundary with the closest village; none of the other kids in town liked being there, but then again, it felt like a better place to be than back home.
Something red was moving, actually flapping, near the entrance to the mine; this wasn’t an animal or a plant, it was something entirely different, something that was put there by someone, something with a purpose. He felt like going back to the creek, but couldn’t ignore the mesmerizing object, agitated by the wind.
Taking a deep breath, the slender teen drew near and crouched to look closely: it was a flag. A flag! From every single possibility of what could be found in that place, he found a small, red flag playfully moving, planted in the middle of nowhere.
This time he really felt like running away; was he being observed? Was this a prank? A snare? He looked around him, his heart was pumping faster: not a single soul. Even nature seemed mute, expectant, holding its sounds and motions, waiting for him to dig.
He couldn’t run away, he’d made it all this way to make this discovery, he had to see it through. Besides, there was not much else to do and this was far more entertaining than doing his usual pencil drawings, sitting by the creek.
Using a piece of wood he found, he started digging; at first sight, it didn’t seem like the pole was too long, but to his surprise, it wasn’t easy to pull it out. As he dug deeper, he saw something resembling a piece of cardboard; he took it out and dusted it off, it had something written on it:
“How did you find me? Keep digging and ”
The sentence was incomplete. He could now hear his own heart pumping, he dug faster, as if all he wanted was for the unexpected trial to end, and leave that place to take cover in his usual thoughts and the drawings in his notebook.
Two feet deeper, he felt the pole start to loosen a bit.
-“Almost there, maybe 1 foot deeper”.
Then, a new piece of cardboard appeared:
“we can play a game, after all this digging it makes sense to have some fun. Hi, my “.
Again, the sentence was left unfinished.
He needed to stop to take a break; his fingernails were filthy as were his clothes, he wasn’t prepared for this amount of work, with nothing but a piece of wood, and his fingers were already injured. It didn’t matter, he was almost done.
He shivered at the thought that once he was able to remove the flag, a new piece of cardboard will complete the unfinished introduction.
But he wasn’t prepared, no one could have ever been prepared for what was at the other end of the pole: a human hand, a skeleton hand the size of a 10-year-old, was tightly gripping the pole. Marco fell on his back, as he pulled the whole thing out of the dirt.
-“What the a-actual fuck?
Is… is this…?”
It was. Inside the bony fist, there was another piece of cardboard, the final one (he expected):
“name’s Armand, I’m dead.
But I guess you figured that out already. This was “Capture the flag” when you’re ready to play “Tag” enter the mine. I promise if you play, I will tell you why you’re playing with a dead kid, how cool is that? Hi-five!”
As he read the last line, the hand opened.
Marco would have screamed with all his might, but what came out instead was a gasp; he couldn’t utter a sound. He couldn’t move, he couldn’t close his eyes to stop seeing, nor could he release his new friend’s hand. He couldn’t make sense of anything, he could barely begin moving his legs to try and stand up.
But in the midst of all those things he couldn’t do, there was only one very clear thought in his mind, one thing he could do, the very thing he couldn’t avoid:
“I need to get back home, bring the flashlight, and enter the mine”.
I think this is probably too deep for this hour of the night and a day packed with real-life cybersecurity action at work (woo hoo!).
In any case, I have some ideas I don’t want to leave unexpressed tonight, also I’m listening to a “Jazz Noir” playlist, which helps me make it through the night with the guts and toughness of a broken detective, way too tormented to sleep and obsessed about catching that monsters of the streets, that’s proven so elusive: “but, tonight is the night…” as our good-old Dexter Morgan would say.
So what’s up with the void?
Oh, come on folks! Shouldn’t you know it by now, that I have a natural affinity with drama?
No, but seriously, I’ll talk about real shit here just be patient and bear with my introductions; I’ll tell you two things:
This has to do with my journey as a writer and artist (of course, if you read me, you probably figured that out)
This is another of this self-discovery-type-of-article in which I feel like having these epiphanies about my own journey, may (even if accidentally) help some of you on your own, or at least get you to think more about it. If that’s the case, I will feel satisfied.
I don’t usually quote people that much in my blog, but I believe the following is worth quoting and helps me as a good starting point for my topic tonight:
“Every bit of learning is a little death. Every bit of new information challenges a previous conception, forcing it to dissolve into chaos before it can be reborn as something better. Sometimes such deaths virtually destroy us.”
So the thing is, this guy from the start challenges you with: “writers have to write, every day”. Well, it’s not the first time I hear it of course, but hey since I’m used to “doing things my way”, I ignored all the exercises and the prompts and started binging the thing: I didn’t get too far, it became burdensome and then I thought to myself “well, you’re already working in your books and if this instructor is right, you should probably just keep writing those”. Well, guess what? I’m stuck now, cause, in reality, I do need all the help and instruction I can get and if I don’t start using what’s available, these projects of mine will never see the light.
Now, folks, it’s taken me years to grow up and stop self-beating for about everything, but I have to be honest because I’ve assessed this with sincerity: that fucking attitude of mine is plain arrogance, disguised as something else. The truth is, it comes from feeling I’m above “writing prompts” and above hundreds or thousands of aspiring authors and somehow my stuff is more special and I don’t need to do what everyone’s doing in forums, and in communities and…
You get the point.
Now, before you just hate me, two things:
Being honest is not easy, I know for a fact most people won’t be. So take the above as a confession, as an attempt to defeat this stupid arrogance that has no real foundation, for I’m the newbie of newbies and I know it.
I think this has a root in other seemingly “unrelated” things that reside in my subconscious and have been sabotaging me for years; perhaps joining me in my analysis may be an interesting exercise for you too.
So taking all of this into account, I started pondering, very seriously: “why am I acting like this, if it’s evidently counter-productive?” And also “have I been doing this in other aspects of my life?” “In other projects, maybe?”
Short answer: “Yes”. Also, I happen to know at least a part of what’s lurking in the subconscious mind that’s affecting me like this, and it’s not something I like to talk about but here we go.
Show these motherfuckers!
So this guy right here is a big part of my personality.
“Seriously? A tough guy?”
Yes, maybe you find me quite melancholic, I am that as well xD. But yeah, this ‘tough boy persona’, who’s a part of me, has been playing some tricks and I have exposed him.
In honor of our story together and the huge help this “tough-boy Josue” has been, let me tell you a little about him and why he’s such a strong part of this troubled mind of mine. Do you know, or could you imagine where tough people come from?
Answer:Tough people comes from tough places.
And yes, there’s just so much to my personal story, at least in the part of my life where I couldn’t really manage or decide, that it could become a series of articles. But the thing is, as soon as I became an independent adult, even with the serious health, financial and emotional problems I dragged from earlier stages of my life, I decided no one was gonna fuck with me ever again. Not only that, but I also decided that the world was majorly a hostile place for me, and I would get from it what I wanted even if I had to force it to hand it over to me.
I know this is a cliche, the cliche of the damaged person who decides never to be a victim again and in becoming epic, also becomes unreachable, unreachable, and oftentimes, unwanted.
To me, this wasn’t a “stage” of early adulthood, it was probably how I was during my 20’s and the beginning of my 30s (I’m 36). I got used to this because it wasn’t only an emotion, it became my lifestyle: courageous, charging forward, an excess for effort, muscle, hard work, relentless… But also, often times reckless, overly self-centered, and hostile. And I did get the benefits of becoming ‘the tough guy’; I’ve been able to do many things that destructive people around me considered “impossible” and I’ve felt amazingly great seeing them from afar, confused and stale where they’ve always been and will probably always stay. All of this while I continue to move, while I charge ahead.
Now, the fact that I’m now able to see myself with more critical eyes, and understand sort of the “archetype” represented by this part of my personality, doesn’t mean I condemn myself for being this way: I accept and love that tough boy, he’s helped me a great deal and others around me as well because hidden in his hostility, he’s got a heart that wants to help others, especially the damaged ones. Without his violence and his strength, I wouldn’t be me, and I accept myself and really like it, nowadays.
But that doesn’t mean I’m blind to his shortcomings, and some of the consequences of using this guy so much are becoming obstacles for me.
There’s A World Beyond The Fight
What happens to a soldier, after the war is won?
My life story required a soldier and a very epic one. But see the thing is, I got attached to that character, to that version of myself that brought me so many victories, so much satisfaction, who protected and provided, who endured the worst times. But this soldier is now facing a time he was not built for, a time of peace, a time of quietness, a time of beauty, a time of exploring new things and by the way, a time he bought with blood and tears.
The tough boy has been in a crisis of meaning for a few years now.
And what’s growing in me, is a different animal. It’s still part soldier because I will never let go of that, but I need to integrate it with a philosopher, an artist, a thinker, and a businessman because these other “auxiliary” parts of me are no longer the “auxiliary” ones but the ones taking precedence.
So among many other things, I will not brute-force my way into writing a good book, recording a decent music demo, or developing a voice worth listening to. All of these new things, require me to connect with others, learn from others, and accept the possibility that others hold many of the keys I’ve been desperately trying to find.
It’s time for bravery to give way to humbleness, and violence, to wisdom.
And in that sense, the words of Dr. Peterson echo strongly in my current midnight (not a metaphor, it’s literally 12:36 A.M.), listening to jazz noir and feeling very tired, and also very satisfied that I’m tired for the right reasons.
And let me finish with this: I will go through that whole Udemy writing course, and I will start again being engaged in writer forums and communities and actually read what others are doing, helping them review and also asking for their reviews and their feedback, even if it’s hard to hear. This is now a public commitment with you, my wonderful readers; actually, I published my first exercise from that course, it’s called Blue Door in case you’d like to read it.
Friends, I’m learning, every day, dying a “small death” every day, and watching something new come to life every day. We’re humans, we’re wonderful creatures capable of reinventing ourselves, capable of deciding to become someone better than yesterday and if I die tomorrow I’ll go with a smile.
The pressure in her chest, in her head, like a dam full of cold waters, that seemed still and crystalline, but she knew (oh she had always known) the murky depths and the treacherous currents that seemed to scream so loud the whole structure started to crack.
She had the key, this is what she knew, and it was a key like no other she’d ever seen in her life, an object conceived in magic, yet it also carried a weight of madness. After walking 10 miles in the direction that the old hand-drawn map indicated, she finally arrived; it was hard to imagine that such a large building would stand alone in that deserted landscape, just the absence of purpose that impregnated the structure was enough to chill her bones. The front door was made of dark metal, and it seemed quite heavy, she reached for the key, but the door was open, just a little push was needed, and the thick, metal door seemed to have no weight as she quietly entered the place.
There was no one. The structure was a perfect cube, gigantic, cold, and terrifying, there was nothing but a blue door at the opposite end; her fingers ran through the intricate shape of the magnificent object inside of her jacket, this was a place worthy of its magic, and of its madness…
She approached the unfamiliar door and nervously took the key from her pocket. She took a deep breath, unlocked the door, paused, then opened it. To her horror, she saw a perfect, empty, giant cube, like the one she had just entered and walked across, and at the opposite end, coming out of a blue door, a woman held a rare shiny object in the opposite hand than she was holding her key, and stared at her with eyes wide open in unbelief…