Power Trip

She started driving 150 miles north, to the big city. She wound her way through a seedy part of the city, around the dirty familiar streets, to the ugly green apartment building with the burn marks on its side.

Most of her time there, she had been high. She did remember her roommates cooking meth at the top the stairs, while one of the guys, who was perpetually drunk, looked on. She also remembered her abusive girlfriend slamming her down, throat first, onto the balcony railing.

“You have no power over me anymore,” she said, in the strongest voice she could muster.

Next was a restaurant an hour south, where she’d worked six months, bussing tables and running food. She was either drunk or high most of the time she worked there. Most of the people there didn’t like her, and several stole tips from her. They didn’t like working with a trans woman.

“You have no power over me anymore,” she said, as clearly as she could staring at the outside of the ritzy restaurant.

Next, it was back to the town she lived in and the house she grew up in. After her parents moved out, and after she left the meth house apartment, she lived here while she worked at the restaurant half an hour north. She had gotten so messed up on drugs there, she began to hear voices and see faces at the windows. Her father came and moved her out and into an apartment one night.

“You have no power over me anymore,” she said, mustering up as much courage as she had.

Finally, it was cross-town to the place she dreaded the most, where her abusive ex-girlfriend still lived. She actually shook in the car turning down the hated street. She stopped her car right in front of the house.

“You have no power over me anymore.”

{“yes i do”}

“YOU have no power over me ANYMORE.”

{“i always will, and you know it -“}

“YOU HAVE NO POWER OVER ME ANYMORE!!”

Silence.

 


 

She sat in her psychologist’s office, recounting her trip.

“I did exactly what you told me to do, all of it.”

“And how do you feel now?”

“Weird,” she said, sipping a Red Bull. “Cost a fortune in gas…”

“Go on.”

“I have had nightmares about all of those places, and it was good to face them, but…”

“But what?”

“It isn’t what was done to me that won’t leave me, it’s the things I did to myself.”

“Yes. But you aren’t that person anymore.”

“So I have no power over me anymore, either?”

Her therapist smiled. “The you that was has no power over the you that is anymore.”

“Who does, then? Where do I go with my life?”

“Forward. It’s the only way any of us can go.”

“So does this mean the nightmares will stop?”

“I can’t promise that. We’re just working on taking down whatever barriers keep you from moving forward.”

She left her therapist’s office and met her father down at the park to walk.

“How did it go at therapy today?”

“Oh, you know. Just the usual, breakthroughs and stuff.”

“Cool,” her father said, absent-mindedly.

 


 

For Nano Poblano this year, I’m trying a prose post a day instead of my usual work in poetry. Thanks for reading. – S.B.

 

time and time again

first love
flowing wild;
ever crashing
waves in
endless succession

the us there only is;
the you that only matters

when breathing
that has not your scent in it
is not really
breath at all

first love:
total immersion,
owning both the sea and
the sky


last love
running quiet;
ever below
the surface of
what can’t be said

the us that ever is;
the you that is my lifeline

when breathing
this place again, with you,
is realizing how precious
each breath is

last love:
total acceptance,
owning both our pleasures and
our frailties

The Wandering Life

I love to walk, ride or drive with no particular destination in mind.

Some would say I write the same way. There’s truth in that.

Yesterday, I took a few hour drive through the countryside; I love to see the fields and forests dressed for autumn. I started down a familiar highway, then took a random turn. Within 45 minutes, I was traveling through a series of hills I’d never seen before.

I stopped to park at a scenic overlook – which I recognized as such because of the helpful sign there that said “SCENIC OVERLOOK” – and, after snapping a few pictures, pulled out my tablet to get caught up on other Poblano posts.

My reading is like my driving: I never know what I’ll see that will move me. Several of my fellow Peppers have become favorite bloggers of mine these last few weeks. In some ways, every set of eyes sees an entirely different world.

I also check the Facebook feeds, there are posts there I missed on the WP list. I enjoy the interplay there, though I rarely join in.

Another car pulls into the three parking spots that constitute the scenic overlook. From it, a young couple emerge who look like fitness models. The man looks at my rather endomorphic form with a disgusted glance that says

“Junk food. Poor guy is probably hopped up on Funyuns.”

Which sounds like a good idea to me, so I get back in my car and head down the highway in search of a convenience store.

 


 

I have this weird sort of fondness for convenience stores. For any of you who may live in other countries, what Americans call “convenience stores” are gas stations (usually) that also sell miscellaneous retail items, the most popular of which are cigarettes, lottery tickets, and beer. I never buy any of these things, except gas for my car. Convenience stores have become decidedly inconvenient since they started selling lottery tickets, as people can spend ten minutes picking out which games they want to throw their money away on. I typically buy things like soft drinks and snacks — including, on rare occasions, the aforementioned Funyuns.

In the area of the country I live in, many convenience stores have kitchens in them and serve various types of country cooking – and not necessarily this country, either. The store I find about ten miles away from the scenic overlook has Rajasthani cuisine, and it smells amazing. You might not think to drive to some unnamed town on the Florida-Alabama border to get Indian food, but there it is, and there I am, and it’s delicious.

“Dal-baati-churma” it’s called. I sit down in the little eating area, and watch the other customers.

I time one woman, who takes eight and one half minutes to complete all her lottery purchases. Another man has a long (but cordial) discussion with the woman behind the counter about the high price of cigarettes – which I’m relatively sure she can do nothing about – but he decides to buy them anyway, as I suspected he would. The woman behind the counter is very beautiful, by the way; not young, but beautiful in a careworn sort of way.

I am that guy who thinks all women are beautiful.

A man sits down in the booth next to me to eat, and immediately strikes up a conversation.

“Never seen you here before.”

“Yeah, I live up 331. Just out driving.”

“The food here’s addictive, although I still have no idea what’s in it.”

“How long have they been serving it?”

“This place served fried chicken and fish up to last year. The Johnston’s, who owned it for years, sold it to the new owners.”

“Are the new owners Indian?”

“No, no. They’re Mexican. But a friend of theirs runs the kitchen.”

I’ll have to put that on the blog. I believe I know at least one Mexican-Indian-American, although, if memory serves, she’s also part dinosaur.

 


 

Darkness fell well before I made it home. Turning onto the street our house is on, I realized that wandering, for me, is like writing, part of the balance I must strike between “making a living” and actually living. Tomorrow, I will be back at work, earning the money my family needs, and that’s okay. Not all who love the wandering life have the same luxury; as I didn’t, at one point in my life.

“Have you ever heard of ‘Dal-baati-churma’?” I ask my wife.

“Heavens, where did you drive today?” she asks.

 


 

For Nano Poblano this year, I’m trying a prose post a day instead of my usual work in poetry. Thanks for reading. – S.B.

 

Motive

He had means and he had opportunity, but he had no motive.

In this case, the action in question wasn’t the commission of a crime, it was the living of a life.

All over the world, people struggle for the means to live, or the opportunity to make a better life; but, unless they also have a reason to live, means and opportunity are meaningless.

Selfish desire had been his sole motivation for years, but like a mirror that reflected only itself, he had examined his own life and found it empty.

He needed to care about something outside himself, something like love; he wasn’t quite sure where he should go to buy something like that.

Oh, my brother — all the means in the world cannot buy motive. For “reason to live” is not a thing you buy – it’s a thing you make.

 


 

For Nano Poblano this year, I’m trying a prose post a day instead of my usual work in poetry. Thanks for reading. – S.B.

 

One Voice

So, what does an important writer look like?

Is the validity of your voice determined by the contour of your face? The content of your resume?

Does your mirror or camera really know if people can benefit from reading you?

Voices are all around us, but, isn’t it possible that we are one voice short? Or would be, without you?

Sundresses

Sundresses

I stood next to her desk at work, nervously introducing myself and telling her that I had seen her around and would like to get to know her better. She told me her name, and agreed to meet me for lunch down at the Harbor Docks on Saturday.

I had asked one of my married female co-workers “how does a guy ask a woman he doesn’t even know for a date?” and she had given me this approach, word-for-word. “Start with lunch; it’s less threatening,” she said.

I followed her instructions. It worked.

That Saturday, I was sitting outside on the deck of the restaurant (overlooking the Gulf and not the “Harbor”, in spite of the name) when she arrived. She was wearing a white sundress, and looked stunning.

I have (and had) a horrible weakness for the sight of a girl in a sundress.

Joan was her name; she was new in town. Both she and her twin sister, Angela, had started working where I worked (in different offices) the same week. They were not identical, but people sometimes thought they were. I asked her about where she had come from (Tallahassee); what she liked to do (run and work out); and so on. I spoke some about the same topics for me.

It wasn’t long before conversation sort of ground to a halt. The date wasn’t working; it just didn’t feel right. I was accustomed, on dates, to being able to get the women I dated to laugh; however, nothing I said seemed to be particularly funny to her, which was a bad sign for me.

Girls did not typically date me for my looks.

Forty-five minutes in, she honestly seemed bored out of her mind. Still, lunch was good, and it was a beautiful day; and, I mused, as attractive as she was, she certainly shouldn’t have any problem garnering male attention. Hopefully for her, next time she would be having lunch with someone she was more compatible with.

I walked with her out to her car to say goodbye; after she left, I decided to take a walk down the beach. It was early fall, but the weather was still warm and breezy.

Being, at that time of my life, a lonely single guy, I wondered if I shouldn’t have tried to pretend to be the kind of guy she liked in the hopes of finding out what was beneath that sundress. I dismissed the thought, however: I wasn’t that good of a liar and I wanted someone to like me for me; so, I told my pesky male sexuality to pipe the f*** down.

Besides, it’s hard to pretend you work out when you don’t.

I saw a few stray people out walking, including a woman or two wearing sundresses. I’ve never quite been sure what it is I like so much about that particular fashion on women. I guess it’s like taste in music: you hear something, and you know you like it, but you’d be hard pressed to say exactly why. I’ve just always loved the sort of casual naturalness of that look, for whatever reason.

I was feeling down; I had entertained high hopes for that date. Although in my mid-twenties, some of of my friends had stopped this business of merely dating and taken to getting married. I had some longer-lasting relationships when I was younger, but not in some time — and I was lonely.

It was a loneliness slated to last roughly five more years; but I couldn’t know that at the time.

I picture me now at that age, driving back to my apartment, talking on the phone to one of my buddies who wanted to know how my date went (“It was a dud, man”). I see myself making a pizza in that little apartment that evening, with a glass of wine and my tiny cat for company, listening to music as the sun set down the beach and the night lit up with partygoers at the bars and clubs all up and down the way. There I am, after some hours of television and and some minutes in the shower, settling down in that old bed with its broad striped comforter, the cat sleeping on the headboard, dreaming my dreams of girls in sundresses — and that one girl in particular, whose face I never could quite see clearly, who’d smile when she saw me, and laugh at my jokes, and who would actually want to lay down next to me every night.

 


 

For Nano Poblano this year, I’m trying a prose post a day instead of my usual work in poetry. Thanks for reading. – S.B.