Rote Routine

A typical day avoiding a mental breakdown.

Wake up at 8:52 a.m. despite my alarm being set for 9:00 a.m.. Forget to turn the alarm off until it actually goes off at 9:00. Pavlovian reaction upon hearing the alarm sound. Dread. Anxiety. Depression. Lay in bed feeling greasy and dirty and strung out from having so little sleep. Imagine it feels similar to how a cocaine junkie feels coming down. In bed until 9:25. Put clothes on by 9:29. Right on schedule.

Go upstairs and drink a Bang energy drink. Or coffee if Bang is not available. Pee. Sit around dreading the day until 10:00. Try to use the bathroom at 10:05. Nothing happens. Put on boots at 10:20. Try to use the bathroom at 10:25. Nothing happens. Scared to possibly have to use the work bathrooms.

Get in car. Check mirrors. Seatbelt. Drive. Stop at traffic lights as they turn yellow just as get near them. See lifeless zombies stopping their cars next to me at the red lights. Drinking coffee. Caffeine. Cocaine? Stalk the parking lot for a parking spot that’s acceptable. Park. Readjust car because it’s not parked perfectly straight. Get out. Smoke cigarette. Watch people walk into work. Look at their faces. Happy. Sad. Hungover. Suicidal but smiling. Dread the day. Wonder why the sun is so goddamn bright. Or if it’s cloudy wonder why it’s so dreary/depressing and miss the sunlight as I forget how blinding it is. Walk into work ten minutes later.

Sit in a van for an hour. Scowl at coworkers. Hear the sound effects from cheap mobile games. Earplugs. Unload an airplane. Sit around for another hour. Load six containers into the plane. Wait 30 minutes. Load one container into the plane. Wait 5 minutes. Load three cans into the plane. Wait 10 minutes. Load five more cans in 4 minutes with management screaming at us that the plane is due out in 7 minutes. Sit for another half hour before the plane actually leaves.

Walk to car. Open door. Sit. Seatbelt. Shift. Drive. Listen to songs that don’t fit my current mood but unable to find a song that does. End up at McDonald’s. Order a #9 meal, large fry and large diet-coke please? Thanks. That’ll be some amount that I don’t listen to because I use a credit card to pay. Pull ahead to the second window please. Hand card to lady. Hands card and receipt back. Crumble receipt and throw it in the passenger seat. Get drink. Get bag of food. Say “Thank you.” Lady says “Uh huh.” Rolls her eyes as the automatic drive-thru window closes. Drive some more and pile food into my face. Wonder why the fries are burned. Wonder why the fry box is only 75% full. Feel bad about eating the food. Have anxiety about needing to use the bathroom at work in the 6 remaining hours I’ll be there. Have to pee. Too lazy to go into a convenience store to actually pee. Go back to work. Park.

Find another parking spot. Sit in parking lot. Finish soda. Dump ice onto the ground. Unzip pants. Look left, right, and behind. Piss into the empty large diet-Coke cup carefully. Open door and dump piss onto parking lot. Wait 15 minutes. Get out of car and smoke a cigarette while standing in the piss puddle next to my car. Pretend not to know this fact as coworkers arrive. Walk inside. Wait an hour. Unload/load a plane. Wait an hour. Unload and load another plane. Wait 30 minutes. Leave. Drive home. Park at home. Sit in car listening to depressing music wanting to cry but being unable to cry for some reason. Feeling emotionally constipated. Think “Is this all life is?” Feel so hollow and pointless about thinking that that I also think there’s no reason to sit in the car and feel bad about it. Wonder why I can’t cry. Think about how much money I’m making. Think about why I’m making this much money in the first place. Cry.

Fumble with keys. Unlock outer door. Fumble with keys again. Unlock inner door. Take boots off. Take socks off. Insert socks into boots to be used again in 12 hours. Fill mug up. Microwave water for 2 minutes. Insert chamomile tea bag into hot water. Add 1 teaspoon of vinegar and honey each; the vinegar sounds terrible but really ties the flavors together. Drink tea. Play Morrowind. Autosave. F5. Get killed by endless cliff racers. Wonder why I never had adventures in real life.

Go to bedroom. Light a candle. Undress. Read a book. Tired at 12 a.m. but awake at 2 a.m. Unable to sleep. Grab phone. Check social media over and over and feel dirty about doing so. Wonder why no one texts me. Try to sleep. Remember something that happened two days ago and think about it unnecessarily. Anxiety. Think of something to write about. Grab phone again and writes in Google Docs. 3 a.m. and awake in 6 hours. Wonder why I am this way. Go upstairs, take a single diphenhydramine pill. Go back downstairs to bed. Scared of falling asleep because I’ll be teleported directly to feeling miserable again. Just a little more time please? I don’t want 9 a.m. to teleport directly to me yet. I don’t want to teleport to it either. Let’s stay apart. More anxiety. Dread. Fear. An endless, circling carousel. A few random disjointed and unconnected thoughts drift in and out of my head along with some faint colors.

The alarm goes off confusing and terrifying my dreaming brain. Dreaming of elephants in Africa. And zebras too. What’s that sound? It’s an alarm. Oh. Pavlov again: Terror, Fear, Dread. Reality slides back into focus. 9 a.m. I shut it off. And I’ll lay in bed until 9:25. Then I’ll put clothes on, and I’ll drink a coffee and then…and then…

A Conversation with Her

She tells me things I need to hear.

I’m lying in bed dreaming. Currently awake but dreaming. We’re all dreaming all the time though.

I feel the universe working its way through me in this moment. It’s there in all moments it’s just that we’re never aware of it. I’m lying on my back staring at the ceiling with a river flowing through me. The gentle hum of my body, like when you hold a garden hose and can feel the water coursing through it. It starts in my chest from my heart and flows outward through my arms, legs and head. Lightning bolts of liquid energy flowing outwards into everything around me.

It’s all right here within me. I’m at peace. I’m happy. I’m nervous because I need to let it work. I need to let it speak through me. I need to be its nervous and terrified mouth. A way for the ideas to get into the universe. A gift from the universe to the universe.

The dream brings you back as a kid. All the wonder, all the joy, all the love, and all the curiosity. I’m floating on my bed in a Sea of Love, the universe gently rocking me to a place I’ve been before and a place I’ve never really left. There’s the hum of bloodblow and a thump, thump, thump and when I move I hear water flowing around in my head. There’s a pale red glow all around me and I am here as I’ve never been before but always have been.

And I am a part of her, the child and mother as me. She birthed me and I am with her always. She takes care of me and loves me. She feeds me. She lets me play. But she allows me to make mistakes and feel pain because that’s how you grow as a person.

The blonde lady shimmers in and out of reality. Here but also not here. All around me. I am her and she is me. She talks to me but no physical sound is heard. It’s only to me that she talks with right now.

“Why are you scared?” she asks. She now floats above me as a vaporous entity buoyant on the ether around us. Facing me near the ceiling she hovers. Her blue eyes stars in the sky twinkling in mine. We lie parallel facing each other, me looking upwards and her looking downwards. Her blonde braid dangles down towards me like God reaching towards Adam to give him life, my arms passively folded across my chest.

“Everything,” I say.

“Why? You were never scared. Never fearful. The Mother is always with you. Within you. She won’t let you stray.”

“I know, but I don’t know. I can’t grasp the feeling. I have it now and surely in a few hours it’ll be gone. The universe will stop flowing through me. It’ll stop buzzing and humming within me. All there will be is the darkness, the fear, and the feeble and anxious pitter-patter of my heart.

She smiled and sent love through me.

“It’s just like you to be grasping, to always be looking for a place to hold onto. But there is nothing to hold on to. You’re in a boat floating down a river, constantly afraid that it’ll tip over. You keep grasping and holding onto it for some idea of comfort, of safety. But you’re still in a boat floating down the river. There isn’t any reason to grasp. You’re always in danger, but also perfectly safe.”

“Give me some comfort. Make me understand. Let me understand.”

“Know that you are the universe thinking of itself. Right now. If you are confused the universe is also confused and if your mind is clear then the universe is clear. You’re not in the universe or a part of it, you are it! Everything is as perfect as can be, right in this instance. Go ahead and look around. Feel the moment. It’s all right here. All the misery to behold, but all of the love to behold as well. Everything that has existed, will exist, exists now, and will never exist is hopelessly right here in front of you. And to see it you only need to not look too hard for it.

“Listen, have faith in the universe. Have faith in me. Why are you always trying to understand things? To alter things? Just let them be. In a way, let go of the boat or raft that you keep clinging to. And once you let go of that, don’t be tempted to grab onto another boat or raft, or ever a piece of driftwood in desperation. Just float along with the current.

I rolled over and grabbed a notebook that was next to the bed. I furiously started to scribble broken words and sentences down. Go with the flow. Boats on a river. Don’t grasp. Don’t cling. Be yourself. Perfect inaction. Have faith in the universe.

I glanced up where she was floating above me and she was gone, physically that is. Despite this, she spoke up. A voice that was as real as anything is, but not physical. There was no sound but there was still a voice.

“You’re grasping again.” she amusingly said. I nodded and shrugged. “By writing down and solidifying these ‘guidelines’ you falsify them. Now the opposite of what you’ve written is true. Focus on self-improvement, focus on making an impact in the world you live in, realize the universe is a cold, cruel, and terrifying place.”

I ripped the page out of my notebook, crumpled it up, and tossed it against the wall. I started to cry. Nothing made sense. Nothing was ever going to make sense and the fact that this bothered me so much also made no sense.

“Write that down,” she said.

“What?”

“That nothing makes sense.”

“Why?”

“Because you finally seem to be finding your way in the correct direction, James.”

“I’m not going to write that down.”

“See? You are making progress!”

“Let me instill some more wisdom while you’re here. While you’re listening to me. Channel these thoughts and maybe write them down. Claim them as your own. Could it be that you’re already where you want to be? You think you’re stumbling through a cave blind and in the darkness with your hands stretched out. But this is only because your eyes are closed. If you only had the courage to open them you might discover that you’re on top of a mountain. In the crisp, clear, cold, and truthful air. Take a breath, can’t you tell? It’s not stuff, moldy, musty, or cave-like in any way because you’re on top of a mountain.

“Sure there are people above you and further along the summit path than you are, but you have your own team to take care of. What if people look up to you and you only lack the courage to see this for yourself? What if you’re further along the path then they are and it’s your purpose to guide them? What if by not recognizing this you’re doing everyone — including yourself — a disservice. What if you’re a leader? What if you have a job to do? What if you’re given a task that only you don’t feel capable of doing?”

“Is this what I’m supposed to do?”

She appeared next to my bed as ethereal and beautiful and she always is, was, and will ever be. She seemed to be amused by my question.

“You’re not supposed to do anything!”

“So what was all of that you just said about?”

“Oh, mere hypotheticals and such. Just me asking questions. But how are you supposed to find answers if you don’t ask questions?”

“So what are the answers to the questions you just asked me?”

“That is for you to decide.” She looked around. “Well, my time is up.” She held her hand out for me to grab onto, as if to help me get out of bed. “And it’s time for you to wake up.” I grabbed her icy hand and she forcefully yanked me up. I sat up in my bed with the sun pouring sunbeams into my lap.

It was time to go about my day and for once I felt happy about it all.

Dream Journaling

Writing down dreams.

November 12, 2019

Dreamt I was at a fair or something. But it was inside. I’m recalling a scene from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the movie version, where Raoul and his lawyer pal are riding a merry go round inside somewhere. And there’s a monkey, isn’t there?With glasses? Well, that’s what it felt like. I was there, and I don’t recall other people being there but I wasn’t alone. If that makes sense. I was hesitant to ride but the ride operator (whom I never seen because he wore giant aviator glasses and had a moustache) told me I’d have fun. It would remind me of being a kid and everyone needs to feel like a kid periodically in life. I hopped on a horse and he started the ride.

He was also sitting in the center of the carousel. I’ve never seen a carousel operated this way.

The ride went faster and faster and I thought I’d get thrown off. But he kept laughing and telling me to hold on, hold on tight! I found myself moving to the side of the horse I was riding to counteract centripetal force. And I remember thinking about that and trying to tell the operator about it. Something about the radius squared and the rotational rate. He didn’t know anything about physics and centripetal force. The force was threatening to throw me off the ride so I positioned myself so the horse and bar would take the outward force. I kept yelling about physics. The ride eventually stopped and he was glad he got to learn something.

November 25, 2019

I dreamt that my bottom row of teeth were worn down to the enamel or whatever it’s called and was freaked out about them falling out. Wasn’t a good dream.

Then I was going to math class. Was on a subway or a bus or something. There was a guy playing a game on his phone, sorta like that Magic Piano game but where you only had to hit a few notes during the chorus or something. Like there was no challenge or anything to the game. It was pathetic and the guy loved it; he was having a blast playing it. Got to the class building and went downstairs. We took a math test, and during the exam I was nervous that I couldn’t find a vector given its terminal and initial points. I erased my answers so much I had to ask the teacher for help. He misunderstood and shown me the answer in the back of the book. I figured he wouldn’t penalize me but since I had seen the answers he said he’d just take points off from that question. Then he said something along the lines of, but in a friendly, helpful, and non-sarcastic way, “People get jumbled up sometimes. Especially if it’s been awhile and you’re just a math casual and not really into it.” I was very angry, offended, and wanted to say that I figured out how to find a 4-space cross product on my own. (I don’t even know what that is) Then I guess I woke up.

But after waking up, I realized that I had a total of three dreams that I remembered pretty well but had forgotten by the time I wrote this. I NEED to start writing ASAP when I wake up because I always forget that dreams always become fuzzy after a few hours.

December 1, 2019

Was on an island. It felt like a vacation. Had the feeling of Outset Island from the game Wind Waker. Not similar in appearance or size or anything, only similar in how it felt. It looked like a dumpy area of Rockford. The alleyways were narrow and run down. Then I merged into another dream.

I was on the west side of Rockford. Just walking around I guess. I felt I was going somewhere, or just exploring. Now I’m getting into another dream. Or not sure if it was the same one? Anyways I’ll assume so. I was near the river on the west side. I crossed the river to the bike path.

Now I know for a fact this isn’t the same dream. I just realized three or four of the “bike path dreams” I had. They just were remembered and merged into one singular “landscape.” My mind feels almost overwhelmed. I’ve been suspecting that each single dream (or most single dreams) seem to occur in some of the same “landscapes,” or “dreamscapes” I suppose. Like they’re all physically different but are the same thing. I cannot clearly explain this. I will skip the bike path part. It occurred elsewhere. It seems it always comes up.

I was walking on the west side, by a random sheriff’s building. I was worried about being shot or mugged but then realized I’m part of humanity; I’m one of them and no harm will come to me. I even seen a guy who walked past me and he said, “Hey man, what’s going on?” I replied back something like, “I’m good. How about you?” Just act cool and everything will be fine.

I made it “home” and waiting until my ex-girlfriend got home from work. She finally pulled up in her car and came inside and proceeded to tell me about a healthy fruit that she should “put inside her.” I said something like, “How about I get inside you?” and grabbed her by the waist. She didn’t seem offended, amused, or anything. Apparently we were still together but she seemed more interested in her fruits and health foods than anything else. That’s fine. That’s how I felt in the dream at least.

The Puppeteer

Meeting The Puppeteer.

It was a grey, dreary, and foggy morning and my mood reflected this. I’m not sure if all people are this way but when I wake up my mood instantly reflects the weather outside. If it’s a bright and sunny day my mood is uplifted while a grey and dreary day brings it down to the level of crippling depression. Maybe it has something to do with my vitamin D levels?

Not that the weather made me depressed, because I can do that all on my own without assistance. Once again depression with no clear reason; the past few days of my life had been standard and average, but yet my mood was awful with nothing to point at or blame for triggering it. The weather just made it worse.

When I get that way I want to get out of my head. It’s like my mind runs nonstop with negative thoughts with no way to escape, hence the alcohol abuse, sleeping medicine abuse, and anything else I can get ahold of to derail the train of thought that runs through my dysfunctional brain. I want to get away from myself even though that is the most impossible thing that anyone could ever try to do. Being hopelessly locked in my head leaves me with no escape from my worst enemy: myself and my thoughts. All you can do is temporarily distract yourself.

Hence today and my walk. I don’t know why walking helps me, and sometimes I don’t even think it does help, but it’s something to do. It passes the time and makes it more likely that when I’m done my mood will have naturally improved. I headed out around 9 a.m. looking to do something, anything, to distract myself. I didn’t even know where I was going and let my subconsciousness direct me wherever it felt like. At first I went to the end of the yard, then I went to the end of the street, and after twenty or so minutes I found myself strolling through downtown Rockford.

Something about downtown attracts me. Perhaps because it’s where my dad and mom used to take me as a kid. They used to take me to the river where I could ride my bike along the bike path. Or in-line skate. Or just walk. Sometimes we’d feed the ducks. Apparently you’re not supposed to feed the ducks/geese anymore because they breed too much and bread isn’t good for them anyways. My mind is filled with a handful of very cloudy and vague memories of being downtown next to the river on sunny, wonderful days filled with childhood positivity and naivety. Maybe I go there because I like to pretend I’m a worry-free child again. Maybe it feels like coming back home to where I’m comfortable and at peace with my life. I don’t know if this is why I always end up here when I’m in a strange mood; I’m not a therapist/psychologist.

“Hey, I know you. Yes! It’s you!

The voice startled me as I didn’t know anyone was around me. I turned and looked to my side and there was, I assumed, a homeless man standing there talking to me. I stared at him, too surprised to say anything.

“It’s you! The boy from my dream!”

This time I was able to choke out a very weak reply. “Um. What?”

“Yes, don’t you remember me? I was there!”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

I didn’t understand how this bum surprised me in the way he did. I looked around and realized where I was at: the corner of Chestnut and First Street. This bum was always here and in my introspection didn’t notice where I was. I had seen him countless times driving along this street and while never paying him much attention knew this was his usual location. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever seen him elsewhere than on this very corner of this very intersection. Bums always did seem to have a usual haunt for some reason. Maybe he was able to get more money from the passing vehicles here than anywhere else?

He wore an old military jacket with rips, tears, and stains all over it. I couldn’t read the name or anything to identify beside the discolored and ragged American flag patch sewn onto his sleeve. The jacket was open and underneath it he wore a dirty, ripped, and stained grey sweatshirt. His beard had food embedded in it along with what I assumed was saliva or phlegm. He was missing an eye but didn’t have a patch on or anything to cover it up. There was only an indentation in his face where an eye should’ve been. He was wearing a seemingly perpetual smile that was fractured by his rotten teeth. About half of them seemed to be missing, and the other half were a putrid color resembling pus or moldy cheese. I shuddered slightly.

He said, “Your name is…uh, well, what was it? Hmm. It started with a “J”. Jacob? No. Jeremy? No. Hmmm? Oh yeah: Jimmy. Your name is Jimmy, isn’t it? Well, you’re real name is James but your friends call you Jimmy, right?”

“How did you know that?” I asked of him. I wasn’t feeling good about the conversation anymore. Something seemed dreadfully off about it.

“I told you already! I seen you in my dreams! The dreams. You’re always there, walking around, jumping around, fluttering around like a bug. Trying to run but finding your legs are too heavy. You’re usually there with the girl, right?”

“What girl? What are you talking about?”

The girl. You know her, you’ve always known her!” The bum began whispering and held his hand next to his mouth as if to shield his voice from any listeners, which of course there were none with no one around. “You fancy her, don’t ya?” He giggled spewing the putrid scent of rotting teeth into my face. “You don’t need to answer me, friend. I already know she’s special to you. But let me tell ya a secret: she fancies you too! You’re like two cute peas-in-a-pod, ya know that? Because I do. I watch you two. She fancies you and you fancy her. Boy, you would make a cute couple. Would ya like that?”

I simply stared at him.

“You know who I’m talking about, don’t be shy! The girl with the pale white skin, the blonde hair, the braid that falls over her shoulder. The one that kissed you. You know her!” He giggled.

I still didn’t know what he was talking about.

“Do you know why I know? It’s because I’m The Puppeteer! Some people call me The Puppet Master, and I don’t have a preference really. You can call me either one you want, or you can call me Blaine. Blaine is my name, and puppeteering is my game. Ha!” He laughed a disgusting laugh punctuated by coughing up phlegm and snot. Some chunks fell into his beard while the others ended up on the sidewalk. “I know my puppets, and I know you.”

“Look, I need to go. I have to be to work soon. And I don’t have any cash to give you, I’m sorry.” I turned to walk away but Blaine, The Puppeteer, kept taking, holding me firm by the threads of conversation.

“Do you know why they call me The Puppeteer? Do ya? Take a guess!”

“You like puppets? I don’t know. I really need to go. I have to be to work by two and…”

“Yes I do! In a way. My buddies in the war gave me the name. I suppose I used to be what you’d call a ventriloquist before the war. I’d get my dummies out, they’d tell some jokes and have some fun and my friends would laugh! It was a great time. Some people laughed but others found the dummies scary. But in the war, well, war changes you. It gets into your soul and brings out the demons. The demons that are yourself. I’d see dead people all the time, dead men, dead women, and especially dead children. And that gets under your skin.” He started to scratch his arm, seemingly unaware he was doing so, and laughed another dreadful laugh. “But the war didn’t get under my skin. It didn’t change me at all. I’m still the same dummy loving dummy that I was when I was drafted.

“So I’d keep bringing the dummies out, trying to make my pals laugh when things were scary and life didn’t seem worth living, but they started to not find it funny. And the dead women and children filled my head and danced around as if on strings, sometimes in my dreams but sometimes in real life. Like marionette puppets they’d dance. I was a ventriloquist and didn’t know about marionettes, but I became curious about them! The dead people as puppets. You can always learn a new art if you really want to.”

“Well, we came across a pile of people, there were always piles of people around. And I wanted to make them dance! To talk! To come to life! To give their stolen lives back to them! So ya know what I did? I found some rope. I tossed the rope over some tree branches and strung them up! It was hard work lifting these very heavy puppets off the ground but I did it. The children were the easiest and were always the happiest to be alive again. I made puppets out of all of them, I pulled the ropes to make them dance, and they were all happy. I could see them smiling when I pulled the strings to play with them.

“I showed my friends my puppetshow and some didn’t have a sense of humor about it. Some started puking. Some told me what I was doing wasn’t right. Some of the serious ones started crying. They didn’t understand the show. But some? Some of them laughed about it, they understood the show! A few even took the ropes and made the puppets dance on their own! The ones that did understand, they started calling me The Puppeteer. They got it! They understood me! So that’s who I am. I’m The Puppeteer! I string the puppets up, make them dance, put on a show, and people laugh. Even if they don’t understand the show at first, they eventually understand. Everyone laughs eventually. The puppets just have to dance long enough for them to understand.”

“Look, sir, thanks for your service and all, but I have to go. I really need to go.”

“You can go, I suppose, but don’t go too far.” He started whispering again. “I won’t let you go too far. Remember, I’m The Puppeteer, and guess who is one of my puppets? You are! You and that girl of yours! I’ve been watching both of you, and I think you’d be great to play around with. You both can make the audience laugh, cry, and feel something. And isn’t that the point of life? To feel something? So, yes, run along with your day, I’m sure I’ll see you one of these nights. Bring your friend too! I need both of you for the play!” He held his hand up in a spidery fashion as if he was holding a marionette puppet’s strings in his hand and shook it, making his imaginary puppet dance. His lone eye sparkled with madness as he giggled.

I gave him one long and piercing look, turned, and walked away. After a few steps I started jogging. And after a few more steps I started sprinting. Eventually it felt like I was running away from a predator, my blood pumped full of adrenaline, the fight-or-flight response in full effect. I knew the so-called Puppeteer was another lonely soul left behind in a quickly changing society and was no real harm — he just needed some mental help — but…what if? And the more I ran the more I noticed a feeling I couldn’t ignore. My arms felt heavy, as if strings were attached to them and holding me back. My legs also felt the same way, as if some force was trying to stop my running. I turned around and looked at the tiny and almost imperceptible shape of a person standing next to the road far in the distance. The shape was holding his hand out as one would do to control a puppet. Spidery and threatening. It had to be all in my head. I turned and tried to forget all about The Puppeteer on the corner of Chestnut and First, still running as fast as my legs would allow.

Dissociation Highway

A tale of my weekly drive down Route 2.

I always leave for work early on Friday. There isn’t really a reason for this, at least no good and logical reason. On Friday work starts at 7 p.m. whereas on every other weekday it starts at 4:30. I sit around all day feeling antsy, lost, and restless and this usually drives me out of the house much earlier than I need to leave simply to make it to work on time. Sometimes I even make a stop at a restaurant beforehand which I’ve cleverly justified by calling it “Fast-Food Fridays.” I do all of this for no apparent reason, just to kill time. It’s all about killing time really.

I take Meridian Road initially. This takes me out west whereas my work is to the southeast. I then take Meridian south to Route 2. Route 2 connects the city I live in, Rockford, with a nearby smaller town called Byron. Route 2 also connects other, shittier towns further to the southwest but this is besides the point. I don’t even know if the road has a name besides Route 2. The road follows alongside the river and is bounded by trees to the south and rocky cliffs to the north. The river is also to the south, usually hidden from view by the trees and is more visible in the winter after they have shed their leaves for the season. The road, following the river, is a winding road because that’s how rivers are. While every other road in the area follows the north-south-east-west grid that are midwestern country roads, Route 2 does it’s own meandering trek in a northeast/southwest fashion as it follows a river that doesn’t care about cardinal directions. All the other roads are endlessly boring and plain. You literally cannot become lost in Northern Illinois. You go a mile one way and find a road. You continue on another mile and meet another road. On and on until you meet the Rocky Mountains, the Ocean, or Canada depending on which way you’re driving. And maybe it’s the same in Canada anyways. I don’t know.

A problem occurs when I’m on this road and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the incessant winding of the road, or the fact that its bounded by river, trees, and rocks instead of the horizon-bound fields of corn/soybeans that I’m used to. It’s like you’re in another world, or on another planet, while driving on Route 2. It doesn’t feel like Northern Illinois anymore. Maybe it’s the back and forth swaying of the car as you wind down the road that puts you to sleep. Or the gentle up and down as the road rises and falls over the tiny and nearly imperceptible hills along the river. Whatever it is, my problem is this: on this road, week after week, on every Friday without fail I feel like I’m fake. I become totally aware of everything about my consciousness and the fact that I’m basically a meat puppet commanded by a jellyish brain. A robot with a squishy commander at the helm. It’s equally enjoyable and frightening at the same time.

I know it’s something about the road that causes these feelings because Meridian Road doesn’t evoke them. It’s only when I turn onto the snakelike Route 2 do I feel this way. A few times I’ve taken the road all the way to Byron, a ten-mile trip down the river in honor of Fast Food Fridays. They have a lone McDonald’s there that’s wonderfully terrible. Orders are always messed up. The smoothies are never filled to the top of the cup. The slew of teenagers and slightly ex-teenagers that man the battle stations of the restaurant are as incompetent as can be, even at a job as simple as fast food. And I don’t know why I drive all the way to Bryon to visit a shitty McDonalds when Rockford has plenty of shitty McDonald’s to offer me. Maybe it’s just an excuse to drive along Route 2. Maybe it’s suppressed memories. Maybe I like my nature drive to close off the week. And maybe I just like to hate people who mess up my very simple order.

On the way to Byron in the fall you have the recently set sun backlighting every tree, barn, and cliff that surrounds the road to the north and west. It sets an eerie, peaceful, and nostalgic tone. And heading back northeast casts a fiery red and orange hue onto the dying trees and their vividly colored leaves making them glow against the dark sky behind them. The road lures you to sleep. A slight turn here and a slight turn there. Up and down over the slight hills that you’re not sure are even there. You press and release the accelerator to keep your speed. Your heart presses and releases itself to keep you alive. Back and forth. Up and down. Side to side. Constantly going 55 mph along the river without thinking about it.

I become hyper aware of everything, as if I’m an observer watching myself. My thoughts arise and disappear as if another person is witnessing them. I think about food. I think about my indigestion. I ponder why after eating a whole McDonald’s meal I’m still hungry. I think about my smoothie and how the acne-riddled face of the teenager who made it looked like he’s never interacted with a human being before. And maybe I’m the same way? Just a robot stuck inside the skull of some monster who has never interacted with a human before. Some meat and blood-filled bag contained within a layer of skin totally ignorant of everything. Animated by muscle and kept rigid by bones. But this is me. And this is you. It’s not an abstraction. And I’m hurtling down the road in a car for some reason. Going to some place called “Work.” And this “Work” is something that I have to do even though I’ve never properly verified why I have to do it in the first place.

One tiny flick of my robotic wrist can send me directly into a stone wall, a tree, or even the river depending on which way I decided to flick my wrist. Left leads to the stone cliffs. Right leads to the trees and the river. The on-coming cars also make tempting targets, flickering their bright lights off as they approach me and on after they pass. I mimic them by doing the same thing, my brain not actually thinking about the motion required to accomplish it. One flick of my wrist can end this robots life, and another similar flick turns on dimmer lights that won’t upset the other robots. Why robots want to drive into a river that will fry their circuitry is a mystery no one understands. 

I blink a few times and it’s like a camera is taking pictures. Snap, snap, snap.

I’m alive but not. Somehow I’m driving the car without thinking about it. A half-mile passes before I’m aware that it has passed, and my speed never fluctuates one bit. I’m on autopilot and don’t require cruise control. I zip down the road slightly to the left around a corner and right around another.

Thoughts pop into my head uncommanded. I’m here. And everyone is…well, here I suppose. Or out there I suppose. I see a shooting star zip above the tree limbs that hang down like fingers towards me. I only see the fingers for a fraction of a second in my headlights before they’re behind me.

I imagine other people seeing the same shooting star I had just witnessed. I can almost feel their eyes and mine locked onto the same object. Everyone under the same sky but only a select few watching some tiny piece of space dust entering Earth’s atmosphere for the first and only time. Maybe it’s a piece of a comet? Or an asteroid? A chunk that’s been orbiting the sun since the beginning doing nothing until it had a chance encounter with Earth. And it’s gone. And I’m here. Always here. Watching a piece of space debris entering the atmosphere with about thirteen other people spread across Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin who I’ll never meet. In this moment we’re the same. We’re brothers and sisters to everyone else even if no one knows this but myself in this moment.

My mind drifts a bit more for reasons beyond my knowledge. A girl I haven’t spoken to in years liked a picture on Facebook today. A random picture from months ago that I had taken of a bird. Yes, she likes birds. And no we’re not friends anymore. Not enemies, but life has put us on different paths. Why? Why are we on different paths when the same path seemed perfectly fine? Why would she like my bird picture? Was it a chance encounter, the unknown and unpredictable Facebook algorithm showing her the photo by chance that she happened to randomly like? Or was there more to it? Does she miss me like I miss her? Does she look at my profile the way I look at hers? Did something finally push her over the edge to like the picture of a bird so maybe I’d remember her? Did a random memory of me appear in her head just like a random memory of her appears in mine? A random emotional outburst of honesty, the likes of which we always try to suppress for some reason or another? And if so, what do I do? Do I contact her? Do I, do I, do I? I do. And does the silly robot that is really me inside my head thinking these thoughts overthink things? Here I am hurtling down the road, hopelessly trapped and lonely inside my car with nothing but the music and my thoughts to keep me company even though they’re the thoughts of someone else who is only called me.

Route 2 ends in a traffic light a quarter-mile from where I work. I exit a tunnel of darkness, trees, water, rocks, and nature into the brightly lit and cruel world of gas station lights, traffic lights, and streetlights. I take a few turns and pull into the work parking lot. Some coworkers are there and I glance over at them. I sit in my car and take a few deep breaths trying to kill the feeling that I can only describe as “funny.” I’m a person just like them, I tell myself. Or that I’m a robot just like them, but then I think that they probably don’t see themselves as robots and explaining this to them seems very robotic and not at all like something a human would do. I can’t ask them if they ever feel like robots. I can’t ask them if they ever feel “fake” or “unreal” or “like a puppet.” I feel like an alien discovering humanity who can’t admit that they’re an alien. I wonder how I can even talk or interact with people in this state. Can I? What if I can’t? Maybe I can act normal enough that no one will notice? Taking a deep breath I open the door to my car and step out into the world.

“Hi,” I say. “It’s Friday,” I say. And I smile. “Do you have any plans for the weekend?” I ask. They reply. I reply. They reply. I reply. And a whole conversation of robots commences.

Fever Dreams

Incoherent ramblings with a fever.

Consciousness swims before me. It’s like I’m underwater but the water is made of pixels. Like computer pixels. Or TV pixels. All screens have pixels. If you look really closely at a screen you’ll see it’s just a collection of tiny dots. Sometimes you can see this if you get a drop of liquid on your phone. Next time it’s raining check it out. Or do what I do and take your tongue and go pppppttttttttttt with it like little kids do. This should spray enough saliva onto your phone to where you can see the pixels. And sometimes I think our eyes have pixels too. That you can see if you really pay attention. But since no one pays attention no one really notices.

They’re red, green, and blue. The pixels on your phone, not in our eyes. But how can you see white if there are no white pixels on your phone? How does white come from red, green, and blue? I’ll tell you in a minute.

But what’s that sound?

Poo. Tee. Too. Wee. Too. Tweet.

Poo. Tee. Too. Wee. Too. Tweet!

It sounds like a bird but it isn’t. It’s a word I made up. Pootetowetotweet. Say it again, and if you need help pouncing it use the words above as they’re broken up.

Pootetotowetotweet. You know what it means? I don’t I just made the word up. I don’t know what it means yet.

Something in my soul is telling me I just ripped off Kurt Vonnegut. A bird in his story Slaughterhouse 5 said something very similar, and when my mind gets back I’ll check it. Tomorrow. When I feel better.

And now that I feel better there is this: One bird said to Billy Pilgrim, “Poo-tee-weet?” I’m a goddamn plagiarist.

A friend of mine is translating an Olde Englishe Booke from around the time of King Arthur or something. The language, while it is Englishe, isn’t even readable anymore, at least by the majority of the population. Perhaps that isn’t surprising since most people can’t seem to read Regular English American let alone Olde Englishe. Languages evolve like everything else. If someone 100 years ago seen the words skeet, or yeet, or vape they wouldn’t have a damn idea what they meant. And 500 years from now those words will be “olde fasheioned” or something. Like how Shakespeare is barely understandable because language has gotten so far along from it through natural language evolution.

It makes you wonder who actually changes language? Does some idiot just misspell words and then they stick somehow? What is hilarious about Olde Englishe is how they have letters they use that don’t even fucking exist anymore. Sort of like the german ß in a way. I was always reminded of the puritanical s that looks like an f. It’s this letter right here: ſ. Who made the executive decision to do away with that? Not that I’m complaining about it. Those silly pilgrims with their stupid hats with buckles on them. Or maybe that was just a lie they told me in school. Kinda like Christopher Columbus “discovering” “America”. That mother fucker was lost. He “stumbled upon” some islands in the Carribean.

Back to language. No one made any executive decisions because language is a perfect democracy. Who knows where words come from or how they end up falling out of use. Once your friend stops saying yeet so will you. And once your friend starts saying pootetowetotweet so will you. Unless Slaughterhouse 5 remains popular because I ripped the word off from that.

Pixels. As I look at the ceiling or my blackened eyelids I kinda see things swimming and moving around. Kinda like the old snow you used to see on CRT TVs. Maybe I can find a gif of it. I don’t know if gifs even format on Kindles. Because you’re reading this on a Kindle. Because that’s where I’ll self-publish it. Unless I’m still posting on my blog. Oh well, no .gif then. My vision is like that — static — but the static is what I’m casually seeing. It’s like the pixels of the world are slightly flashing, kinda angry, eager, and misdirected because there is nothing to actual display. No input. No signal. Only static.

CRT means cathode ray tube and describes how the damn things work. I think a cathode is negatively charged and an anode is positively charged, but maybe I have those mixed up. Anyways, old CRT TVs worked by spewing electrons out of the cathode ray tube and using magnetic waves bends their paths onto a screen (an electron is negatively charged so is affected by a magnetic field). When an electron hit the phosphorus screen it made light. This is what we see when we watch a CRT TV. Electrons hitting a screen and making light. Light that enters our eye and smacks the pixels there that our conscious brain sees as an imagine. It’s so damn strange. When you think about it. If you think about it.

Also think that a TV signal is a radio wave (traditionally at least). This is a fucking photon. A particle of light that doesn’t vibrate as fast as the light that you can see. Even stranger is the fact that a light particle also can be described as an electromagnetic wave: a magnetic field and an electric field that constantly change and create the other. Ya know, Maxwell’s Equations. A changing magnetic field makes an electric field. And a changing electric field makes a magnetic field. And so on.

I’ve always had an issue how very religious people seem to be opposed to scientific ideas. It always seemed to me that the better you understand the world, the better you’d understand God because he created it and what better way to understand things than scientific inquiry? It’s like how you can know a painter from their artwork or know an author through what they write. Like they don’t give a fuck what God the Artist created because they’re too busy idolizing the artist himself. Kinda like the fanbase of a cringy emo band or something, all image with zero substance.

A TV station antenna takes a signal and converts it into these dancing waves. And your TV converts the shit back into electrons, photons, color, and neural signals processed by your brain. This is what your shitty reality TV shows are. Electrons, photons, and electromagnetic fields.

Satellite TV is even crazier as the signal comes from a geostationary satellite way the fuck out in space. All so you can watch shitty TV shows and sports. Some company put a fucking multi-million dollar satellite into space on a multi-million dollar rocket that countless scientist and engineers worked on and designed. All so in the end you can watch your fucking shitty TV shows, sports, and Hallmark movies.

I’ve been drinking cold medicine all day and it hasn’t done shit for my fever. And I just realized that it has no pain relievers and fever reducers in it. Well no fucking shit it isn’t doing anything. I better go find something with acetaminophen in it at least.

Static. Static. Static.

 If I lay really still I can feel my body itself gently vibrating as if all the particles within me are jostling around. You have to sit really still and concentrate to feel it though. And I think this is why people meditate. It gets them in touch will the humming and buzzing that is “within you and without you” to plagiarize the Beatles slightly. The snowy screen effect is also a visual buzzing but still buzzing. And the fan I’m hearing is also buzzing. Or whirring. But it isn’t pootetowetotweeting. I don’t even know it the word is a verb. It’s funny how once you stop listening to the fan you can’t hear it. But as soon as you realize you can’t hear it it comes whirring back into your consciousness. It’s strange, satisfying, and terrifying all at the same time.

If you also lay really still you can feel gravity smashing you into the bed/the floor/whatever. It’s always a constant and we filter it out but it’s always there. When I realize it’s there I can’t help but think how powerful it is. I’m not gently floating on my bed I’m being smashed into it by the mass of the Earth. Fuck. I bet sleeping on the moon would be amazing. Imagine sleeping in one-sixth gravity!

I had just finished the book The Perks of Being a Wallflower and feel like I’m writing in the tone of Charlie, the main character of the book. Like this! It’s interesting how books can rub off on you where you start using the tone and writing style of the book. If I read Alan Watts I’d start using semicolons all over the place. If I read some David Foster Wallace I’d start using footnotes all over the place. And if I try really hard I can channel some Hunter S. Thompson:

I was sitting in a bar, minding my own business when this loud, clumsy drunkard comes stumbling in through the door. Just making a god awful racket out of the simple task of walking. I could feel the alcohol coursing through my veins, but this character had something entirely exotic in his blood, or maybe he was a whole lot drunker than I was. Either way the line he made from the door to the bar was not a straight one even if there were no tables, stools, people, or anything to impede his path. Just weaving around the place like a blind mole. Scuttling around. He was a loathsome and fearful creature and you could see it in his bloodshot and pinhole eyes as he stumbled in my direction.

I did what any respectable human being would do and offered to buy him a drink as he sat next to me. With almost any seat open in the bar, he had to sit right next to me? Has he ever heard of personal space before? Not that any concept of personal space exists when your blood is pumped full of substances, and whatever substances they happened to be didn’t matter.

“Hey, pal, what do you want to drink? I’ll buy you one. Anything you want.”

The man stumbled even though he was seated on a bar stool. Perhaps the world itself was shifting and moving and only he was aware? Who was I to question his reality?

“Maybe a Jack and Coke? A Bloody Mary?” The man was unresponsive but I continued to pester him. “Look, I’ll buy you a drink. Even if you need a goddamn coffee to sober up before you stumble outside of this place is fine by me. Just get something.”

And then something something happens and I ended up pepper spraying the guy. For reasons.

Most of the stuff I’ve been writing has been, uh. Who cares. Probably me. But am I even the author? Or am I just a dreamer in this story? Am I a character in this story? A dreaming character? Or am I me? Maybe this cough medicine is starting to work. I just want my fever, aches, and pains to go away.

As for pixels. I don’t know the exact scientific reason for there being red, green, and blue but basically the way the human eye is created most colors we see can be made up of those three. They’re called the primary colors of light. It always struck me as strange that the primary colors of paint (crayons, colored pencils, whatever) are different. Green is a primary light color but is created by mixing blue and red paints. Yellow is another example in the opposite direction, it’s a primary paint color but a secondary light color. You need to mix green and blue light to make yellow light.

And light is strange really. You know, waves and particles and stuff. And isn’t that what everything really is, waves and particles and stuff? Okay, yeah, the medicine is finally starting to work. The static in my vision is being turned off. My mind is relaxing. Why am I thinking of pixels, static, and electromagnetism when I have to sleep? Just sleep dammit. I have a lot to do tomorrow. Probably go see a doctor for this cold because it isn’t improving. Maybe work on my dream diary. And did I even dream yesterday? Did I write in the journal? Was she there? And was she…? And…eh. Hell, am I tired. I wonder what would happen…if…what would happen if? What? What am I thinking about? I was thinking of a dream diary and I wonder what would happen if…if…if? If! Oh wait. She’s always been there…Hello.

“Unsent Letters” Introduction

People hiding behind masks, never saying how they feel, and the regret of not doing so. And more ramblings!

Note: I’ve been sick the past week. This has negatively affected about everything in my life: creativity, motivation, writing, brain-storming. I haven’t done anything. I’ve been slacking. Although I’ve been consistently writing chapters for the Creepy Story (or whatever) and while I don’t want to break my flow, I also want to get something posted in the meantime. This is an introduction (kinda elaborated on here) about some bullshit hypothetical “story” about writing letters to people from your past but never actually sending them. While I don’t think I’ll make any progress on it because I’m having so much fun being creepy lately, I do like my introduction to it. So while I’m working on getting my shit together again, enjoy this.

Sometimes lying awake in bed you start to think of people from your past. They drift into your thoughts like waves coming in from the ocean, memories here and there, times both good and bad, and you start to wonder what happened to them. It has been years since you’ve seen them and you start to reflect upon the fact that there was a singular last time you’ve seen them and how at the time you never knew it was the last time you’d see them. You start to feel bittersweet and nostalgic and yearning for this lost past. People that are no longer part of your life but somehow part of you as they gave you a memory of them. They formed you into the person you are today. What exactly happened to them? And what did they mean to you? What did you mean to them? Did you mean anything to them?

As time passes you get a clearer image of how they altered your life. As pain, happiness, regret, yearning, joy, and sadness are dulled with time you’re left with only truth as to how they changed you as a person and how you feel about them. Exes and enemies turn from hated individuals to fondly remembered people for how they helped you grow and change. It wasn’t them that was flawed, it was you and them as a pair that were flawed. Old friends and coworkers also take on a new light as you find yourself wondering what happened to the vast number of people who have entered and exited your life, sometimes forever, and who have left small but permanent changes to you. Carving you in the slow and permanent way that flowing water carves stone.

I always find myself wanting to talk to these people just one more time. Not enough to break societal bonds and actually talk to them — that’d be weird — but enough to fantasize about when I’m unable to sleep at 2 a.m. Mental conversations with them as I run into them at a store. Facebook messages sent drunkenly at 3 a.m. on the weekend. Maybe the stray email here and there. Or, lastly, writing on a computer or in a notebook that might not be discovered until after I die. A sort of final “thanks for being in my life and sorry for not saying what I wanted to say when I had the chance to say it” to them. Maybe somehow ramblings about them in personal notebooks might make their way to them and they’d know how important they were to me.

Maybe that’s part of it too: kicking myself in the ass for not being as genuinely open to others as I should’ve been. I still do it too. You always have to play the “be cool” game with people you know. You can’t tell people you love them if they aren’t family, and conversely you can’t tell people you despise them, once again, if they’re not immediate family. While some are more open than others, every one of us walks through life carrying around a mask showing a certain face to everyone else we interact with. The times you actually get to see the soul underneath the person, the thing that really matters, are surprisingly sparse and I can’t help but feel that this is a major area of regret in everyone’s lives. It’s like life is a constant lie that we tell to other people…and that people are telling to us. Who are these people that we go to school with, work around, are friends with, are in love with, see in grocery stores, or get mad at while driving? We see them and we think we know them, but we don’t really know them.

Sometimes in one of these rare moods I’ve found myself writing letters to people, letters that I’ll never actually send but where I can trick my mind into getting some things off my chest. Say what I need to say to these long gone fragments of my past. It sort of worked too. I used to actually open up the Yahoo email app and write these things as drafts, writing a legitimate email and only stopping before hitting the send button. I’d write heartfelt letters to people totally ripping open my soul for them to see and just not send it. I’d feel better afterwards even though I knew I never sent the things. Apparently my brain and emotions are that gullible.

(I don’t know how I feel about complaining that we don’t open ourselves up enough while also saying that I purposefully write letters that I don’t send. It seems like I equally want to bond with people but also hide my true feelings behind some elaborate mechanism for hiding myself. I’m just point out that, yes, I’m aware of how dumb and hypocritical this sounds.)

This is where the pragmatic author in me appears and goes “that sounds like a great idea for a story!” and I really do think it’s at least an interesting idea. I can write all of these fake, never to be sent letters to people that I want to clear things up with, delete the names and any other pertinent information, and make it into a book. I don’t know what to think of it as it sounds: cringy, terribly thought out, like a good idea, kinda contrived, ungenuine, heartfelt, clever, stupid, and overly emotional. It’s all over the place. It can act as an autobiographical account of my average as can be life while also being a fragmentary puzzle that is purposefully vague. Plus, since you’re only getting my point of view you’d wonder how factual it truly is and how the people I’m writing to might have totally different outlooks on things.

A part of me likes the idea of doing some experimental rip open your soul work especially while trying to put together an actual narrative. Sometimes you just want your damn heart to bleed onto paper and this seems like a perfect thing to do just that. I don’t even care if it turns out horrible because it sounds like it’ll make me feel better and maybe even give me some closure to past events. At the very least I’m sure I’ll unearth a bucket load of demon buried deep within my subconscious and if that isn’t fun then I don’t know what is.

Another Note: As with everything, you might think you have a good idea until you find out it’s been done already. Not that I’ve found an actual story or collection of unsent letters (mostly because I don’t even want to look and be discouraged) but I have found a subreddit with basically the same thing going on. People writing anonymous letters to others so they can get things off their chests, vent, feel closure, and whatever other reasons people feel the need to write anonymous letters. It’s really interesting.