By Micah Friedland
The moist soil envelopes your toes as you press your weight into the sinking earth. Each sharp crevice in the biting stone pinches your delicate bare feet. The ground is spongy here, lacking the viscosity to withstand your foot penetrating through deeply. The cool sepia colored earth is raw and intact, spoiled only by your fresh footprints. Your legs begin to tire from the work of pulling your enclosed foot out of the traps of mud and taking another stride. A chilling wetness covers your back and legs; your perspiration helps you withstand the sharp rays of heat pelting your bare calves and spine. The cloth around your waist clings to you, sticky and moist. You brush aside your damp hair that sticks to your forehead. Your heavy hands lie limp and motionless beside your hips as you breathe in the fragrant air.
The scent of crunchy peanut butter and jelly sandwiches fades to a smell of rich soil, ripening fruit, and tree bark, as you progress deeper into the jade forest. The aroma of French perfumes, Italian colognes, and recent picnics diminishes to an increasingly pungent odor of compost and wet animal fur. The ambrosial wild flowers fill your nose and lungs as your step snaps a twig, creating a deafening crack and erupting in a clamor of flapping wings and hurtling animals.
There is a peaceful and idyllic quiet. You hear your footsteps and the monotonous drone of your lungs filling with refreshing air. The passionate cobalt cascade splashing into the pond is soft and soothing. The occasional dialogue among birds breaks when a piercing shrill startles you. Your calm slowly returns with the rustling leaves and the song of the wind. The whooshing is a welcoming contrast to the strident cries of kindergarten children and raucous laughter of their guardians. The sounds of a fallen fruit fracturing and your stomach growling reminds you of how long it has been since you last ate.
A sudden voracity and hunger captures you. You long for thirst and fall to your knees before a shimmering emerald brook. The liquid, has never tasted sweeter. The snow melted water bites your gums but your tongue welcomes the wet as you raise another handful of the mountain spring to your dry lips. You stuff your cheeks with cherry red berries from a nearby bush. Ravenous for any food-like substance, you squeeze a sour tasting fruit into your mouth. Your cheeks pinch as a reflex to the acidic taste, and you stuff your mouth with a ripe but bruised banana you remembered to carry. Its texture quenches the bitterness of the citrus. A filling sensation in your stomach tells you that you have satisfied your ravenous appetite for now. As you wade your stiff feet in the shallow stream, you settle down to relax on a smooth rock. The humid and thick air creates an aura of stiff darkness.
The lofty canopy of ancient redwoods shades the floor below. There is a spring-green shade of light reflecting off the leaves and bushes. You gaze as high as your eyes will permit, blinded by the vermilion sun. You absorb everything around you: the towering trees, the radiant flora, the myriad birds, the prancing deer in the distance, the Sedona red stone buttressing the sky along the horizon, the dark soil beneath your toes, the brilliant rainbow above the splashing waterfall. Your vision gradually zooms out and becomes pixelated like a Seurat. As you blink, your sight darkens. Your eyes shut and you see only the black stillness of nothingness. You open your eyes, and with a still-life clarity, you see a blinking red 2:13 on your digital alarm clock.
I am homeless. Not just the I don’t know where I’ll be sleeping next month, and not only the nervous wondering when I fill out the online address forms how long it will be valid or if I will still be there when the package arrives, not even the “it’s complicated” response when people ask where I live or what do I do, and also not the long explanation to Apple why I cannot show proof of address.
My homelessness is my aloneness. It is my outcasted star, apart from any galaxy, lacking any mature planet’s orbit, who’s light is occasionally seen when we leave the busyness of our lives and our cities.
It is my lack of a place where I can return to, a shelter where I know I can find comfort, a vestige of nostalgic and positive memories.
It is the deaf ears to my swallowed utterances, the blind eyes to my vivid expressions of pain, the withdrawal from my heavy (ily burdened) arms outstretched.
My homelessness is my nakedness under the covers. It is my (social) hibernation in the day and my raw (emotional) vulnerability in the night.
It is the presence of absence.
PARADOX OF LIFE
I observe the infinite world circumscribed behind my frames:
To discover clarity in the darkness
And awaken life in the restless mornings
I fall into weakness in my sitting
And in my standing regain strength
To find meaning in the enigmatic subtleties ignoring the evident,
And create balance in the dichotomies
I hope in the tears withheld
And search for peace in the discomfort
To hear silence in the music, be blinded by the color, feel the untouchables,
And learn to sense the intangible.
I love the loveless
And dream of the impossible.
Why do we ignore the lives of those close to us,
And heed the every utterance of strangers.
Why do we champion the pursuits of the physical,
And disgrace the pursuers of meaning.
Why do we dance to the beats of hateful words,
And violently storm the streets equally against intolerance and intolerantly against the intolerant.
Why do we saunter intoxicated in our stilettos and leather embroidered loafers under magical city lights shared as night lamps by our brothers and sisters lying on concrete, huddled in blankets beneath the giant monoliths,
And feel like heroes when we give change to a person or cause who’s name we forget tomorrow.
Why did we leave chivalry to the fairytales and desert dignity in the castle,
And yet we expect decorum after our own impropriety.
Why do we empathize in the successes and apathize in the sufferings,
And preach about oneness while looking at them as others and distinct from us
Why can we intertwine our fingers and our thoughts be worlds apart,
And yet can be a handbreadth away of another and our coupled hearts yearning in rhythm
Why are we so afraid of love when we are all searching for her,
And how do we forget to dance her song when she's found.
When can we start ignoring the physical differences. forget color and voice, gender and size. ignore the shoes on our feet and be unconcerned about the shoes on anothers?
why are our choices to connect merely physical: the swipe right, the ‘open’ at the bar, the instagram follow, the new teammate in the pickup game. why do we live
The Curse Of Insomnia
The hand drifts...
The curtains draw close upon my eyes.
The flood of thoughts collide like a Pollack.
The clock ticks...
The anxiety overwhelms like a bucket of red paint emptied upon the canvas.
Tick… tick… tick…
Why do I concentrate on the sound?
Why do I concentrate on my concentration?
I change positions. Again. Again.
I turn over the pillow in search of cool and comfort.
I wonder why I wonder.
Will counting sheep help? It never does. I know I’ll question why sheep are jumping.
The clock has mirrored its previous position.
What if I start thinking about total blackness? I float to the depths of the universe, traveling ever faster through a time warp into a black hole. Emptiness.
I wonder what happens once I’ve been swallowed by the gravity of the black hole. Will I find other stars? Will I exist? Will time exist? What will happen with tomorrow?
Tick… tick… tick…
I’m thinking again.
The hand is still moving
The curtains fall again.
... .... Silence.
I dive into the imagination of screenwriters, fugitive to my own reality. My eyes bleed dark sorrow against the bright colors of my screen. But when I abandon my chaos to the fictions of impossible characters, the thunderous clouds momentarily blow away.
My mouth, bitter from the mixture of chocolate and candies, is a dry desert, embittered from losing the war to the ground water seeping from my eyes. My legs have numbed, immune from immobilization, irascibly irate at me for ignoring them.
Why hasn’t exhaustion overcome me yet?
On a circle of tangerine lounge chairs, valleyed beneath Brooklyn townhouses, sit well traveled Parisians conversing in accented English to their American companions. Talks of dreams and personal growth workshops intersect with a passionate dialogue of an aspiring artist, a junior architect, and a dilettante impersonating an art aficionado. The enchanting festivities center around the departure of Penelope, a Tinker Bell-esque personality dropping her mesmerizing pixie dust upon her captivated guests.
Fairy lights dangle across trees and along fences, kindling a magical romance in the summer night's sky. The music traverses through the soliloquy of its playlist, as its audience divides in groups of dance, conversation, and feast. The smell of the grill accompanies the clanking of dishes as the hungry guests fill their plates with flavorful cuisine.
In the corner of it all, sits alone an observer, fascinated by the view, the sounds, and the party's guests. Reaching for cool watermelon punch at the center of our revelry, his smooth, bare feet sink into the tickling turf. He is charmed by the beautiful women and admires the handsome faces of the young men. But his gaze is drawn to the evening's magnetic host, his sensitive friend who confided with him as she shared her pains, the fair blonde who's contagious laugh brought everyone smiles, his comrade in sarcasm through a polarizingly transformative weekend - his dear Penelope.
She lies beside me
I feel the warmth of her body nestled against mine. I bring her closer, wrap my leg around her. Her hair scratches my face as I bring my lips to the back of her neck.
But I’m cold. And my leg falls onto the mattress. My face is pressed against the softness of my pillow.
She’s been gone for a while now.
The sheets, though light, are heavy and dark full of regret. The bed is unkempt, it appears to me like I left in the morning; honest and true.
The comfort of her is replaced with the restlessness from the fantasy of her. The excitement of the moon’s domain devolved into a longing for tomorrow.
Sleeplessness. I plead with my eyes to close, but with each request they respond with ever more stubbornness. Why does sleep resist me?
I need for amnesia.
Love in the Time of Corona
I eat without taste,
And breathe without smell.
I hear voices and sounds, yet only through walls and technology.
And although I can feel, I am too distant to touch.
I draw breath between coughs while my body is in pain,
And I rest but am still exhausted.
My body is freezing beneath the blankets.
I am alive, but I … I …
Though I appear in solitude, I am not alone, because You are with me.
Albeit sickness and illness, I have life, because I have You and You give it to me.
And while the world is in confusion and craze, I have comfort, because I know You are in control.
Perhaps while I’m confined from community and conventional concerns,
We can spend time together, just the two of us.
I can learn more about You and what You want,
And I can focus on bringing You deeper into my life and Your world.
When You return things to the “normalcy” of nature,
I will appreciate all the senses You endowed me with,
And share them joyfully with all Your people.
And hopefully then,
I won’t forget the intimacy we had, when it was just You and I.
And even when I’m surrounded again by society, entertainment, and daily routine,
We can still be together.