Porcelain Strawberry (Part IV)

Image by Daniela Huhurez

Image by Daniela Huhurez

What follows is a selection from The Sacred Lost Tomes of The Ryan, the brief and terrible history of which is glossed over here and here.  “Porcelain Strawberry” is the second piece of short fiction I can recall having ever written, not including whatever crap I may or may not have been churning out in my adolescence, and has been presented here in several parts over the past week or so.  It was initially written for an assignment in a creative writing class at the University of New Mexico, and was influenced and informed by Nicholson Baker’s novella The MezzanineBut I won’t tell you HOW…that’s for you to discover, intrepid reader!  Go here to read Part I, click here for Part II, and navigate this way for Part III.  BEHOLD, the Finale, Part IV, below:

strawberry-field-sweet

One night, months later, as we lay together, entwined in one another, I look deeply into her entrancing, oceanic eyes, and I feel as if that moment will stretch on forever. I hope to myself that it does. I have something I’ve wanted to say to her since the moment we met, and the feeling of this moment tells me the time is right.

“I…love you,” I say softly, stroking her delicate cheek with the tips of my fingers. She smiles and kisses the tip of my nose, burying her head in the crook of my neck. But not before a flash of surprised, perplexed fear plays ever so briefly across her face. I say nothing, but I am disconcerted by this, a feeling that haunts the halls of my mind for weeks, festering and growing until I can focus on nothing else.

Images of other men begin creeping into my mind more and more often, no longer restraining themselves to times when we’re apart, and I take to visiting her perhaps too often at her job, sometimes lingering outside the entrance watching, waiting, minutes, hours, before even going in. I try to mask my suspicion and jealousy, but this becomes increasingly difficult. Too often I come upon her talking to some handsome, masculine guy, and I wonder at what’s behind her warm smile with him, the proximity of their bodies, the generosity with which she shows him to various sections of the bookstore. Sometimes I hang back and watch during these encounters, but most often I rush up, putting a possessive arm around her shoulders, maybe kissing her cheek or neck, as I shoot the bastard a contemptuous glare in warning. Usually I am a decidedly non-confrontational person – I generally just don’t care enough – but this is different. This girl is mine.

We are eating dinner at Vincilli’s one evening, our favorite spot for those rare occasions in which we dine out in style, when the already awkward conversation between us takes a turn for the worst.

“I need to talk to you,” she tells me, putting down her fork and pushing away a half-eaten plate of chicken alfredo. Her eyes are surprisingly cold, her face tight and emotionless.

“What is it, babe,” I say, trying to mask my fear and unease with overt sweetness.

“I think we need to cool it off for a while.” Her words are a kick in my chest, a vice-grip on my heart. That familiar, sickly, sinking feeling creeps into my gut. I clench my jaw to stifle the nausea.

“Don’t get me wrong,” she continues. “It’s been great being with you…” She pauses, my mouth hanging open in shock and loss. “Well…it was great, at first, but…but lately, things have gotten sort of…suffocating.” My head falls with this last word. I want to bring it down with a bang onto the table, to cry out, to do something, anything to release this vicious, pulsating tension building up in my skull and chest, climbing its way on sharpened claws down my spine. That’s the same thing Kate said, years ago, the last time I had dared to open myself to another person.

“I just think, y’know, if we saw other people for a while, maybe…maybe we’d remember why we got together in the first place.” Disconnected thoughts run fleetingly through my mind, countless things I want to say, but I can’t grasp any of them long enough to form them into coherence. I feel my brow wrinkle, beads of sweat gathering as my eyes dart wildly across the cluttered surface of the table, unable to focus on any one thing. I certainly can’t bring myself to look up at her.

“Aren’t you going to say anything? Are you just going to sit there, pretending like you didn’t hear me?” I close my eyes, take a deep breath, try to collect myself, desperately grasping for anything that might make her stay.

“You…you’re breaking up with me?” The disbelief in my voice is obvious. “I thought we were going to spend our lives together…I thought we were…made for each other.”

“I thought so too, but…I just think if we could spend some time apart…see how we both feel about…about giving some other people a try…”

“But, I don’t want anyone else. All I want is you. I…I love you.” She smirks at those last words, condescending.

“I’m sure you think you do. But, how can you be so sure? I mean, you’ve only really been with one other person. I’ve only ever been with you, so…so how can we know something like that?” She waits for me to respond, but I have nothing left to say. I can’t focus on the moment long enough to react to it. I feel myself begin to grow cold inside, my heart withering, a brief surge of pain shooting through my body before it goes numb…again. And when she finally gets up to leave, I can’t make myself go after her.

Image by Dambreaker

Image by Dambreaker

Months later, I’m on the phone with her again. Supplicate. Pleading with her to allow me a place in her life.

“It’s too late for that,” she retorts, her voice thick with aggravation. “You fucked that up. I told you I wanted some space, but you couldn’t give it to me. I’ve seen you outside my work, outside my home, every day for the last month. I feel like you’re stalking me, and now you want me to let you back into my life? Forget it, you fucking psycho, there’s no way.” I try to break in, to tell her I’m different, I’ve changed, I’ll give her space if that’s what she wants, if only she’ll remain.

“Get a life,” she snaps before slamming down the phone.

After this, eternity. I find myself in a sick state of self-loathing, plunged down into the blackest pit of misery and dejection, a hole which the light of nothing can pierce. Even that splintering speck of pleasure and superiority I once felt at focusing on the pathetic weakness in others is now gone, and I feel nothing but scornful contempt at the world around me. There is nothing, a perpetual emptiness, in everything I see.

I try to call. Her number is disconnected. I go by the bookstore, pretending to search for something in the Fiction Anthology section as I scan the store for her face. She is nowhere. Nowhere to be found, regardless of how often I return, how long I stay. Gone.

Blinking my eyes, I shake myself free of this fantasy turned dark. I look up, searching for my girl. She has crossed the bustling mall food court, making her way slowly toward the glass door exit. A guy walks next to her; they’re embraced hand-in-hand. When did he appear? Her head rests delicately on his shoulder, his black beanie matching the style and hue of her wooly black sweater. Quickly, I rise. Make way across the sea of tables, following her. Following them. She has changed me, in this moment. She has taken grasp of pieces of my tender soul, my innermost being, and I must pursue her to make them complete. I must possess her.

She will be mine.

Grey Matter by Amy Goodwin

Grey Matter by Amy Goodwin


© Ryan Scott Sanders and Dharma and Belligerence: Mad Rants from a Free-Range Buddhist Hooligan, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ryan Scott Sanders and Dharma and Belligerence: Mad Rants from a Free-Range Buddhist Hooligan with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Porcelain Strawberry (Part III)

From Kurt Vonnegut: Drawings

From Kurt Vonnegut: Drawings


What follows is a selection from The Sacred Lost Tomes of The Ryan, the brief and terrible history of which is glossed over here and here.  “Porcelain Strawberry” is the second piece of short fiction I can recall having ever written, not including whatever crap I may or may not have been churning out in my adolescence, and will be presented here in several parts over the next few days.  It was initially written for an assignment in a creative writing class at the University of New Mexico, and was influenced and informed by Nicholson Baker’s novella The MezzanineBut I won’t tell you HOW…that’s for you to discover, intrepid reader!  Go here to read Part I, and here for Part II.  BEHOLD, the ecstatic majesty of Part III, below:

strawberry-field-sweet

“Oh my god, I love David Lynch!” I exclaim. “I can’t wait until they put the rest of Twin Peaks on DVD, which they better do…otherwise…” She grins at me, her expression one of admiration or perhaps growing attraction.

“Yeah, Twin Peaks was pretty cool, but my personal favorite is Mulholland Drive. I have no idea what the hell is going on most of the time, but it’s a great movie anyways. I’m not a lesbo or anything, but Naomi Watts is sooo hot!” My mind shifts briefly to the sex scene in the film before returning to the conversation.

“Well, maybe we could watch it together sometime, and I could explain what I got out of it. I think I have most of it figured out, except I’m still struggling with the blue box and the monster behind Winky’s.” Her eyes glow as her smile grows even bigger, and I think I notice her cheeks redden ever so slightly.

“I’d like that. Aren’t you going to drink your coffee?”

Eventually the conversation turns to body modifications when I mention the silver stud piercing the middle of her tongue.

“Do you have any other piercings or tattoos?” She answers by pulling down the top hem of her jeans, which fit her form nicely, revealing a colorful tattoo of a faerie sitting atop a magical mushroom. It is on the part of her left hip just underneath the curve of her belly, inward from the subtle, sexy protrusion of her hip bone, a spot I confess to her is extremely sensitive and ticklish on my own body. I also catch a glimpse of a silver, crescent-shaped stud, the ball on the end glimmering like a diamond, poking out from her navel before she smoothes her top back down.

“I like your belly-button ring,” I tell her, a hint of anxious seduction escaping with my voice. “I think that’s a really sexy piercing for a girl to have.”

“What about you, what kind of body art do you have?” I respond by turning in my chair and pulling up the back of my shirt, displaying the grinning, demonic painted faces that adorn my shoulder blades.

“Ooh, scary! I must confess, I have a sick fascination with jesters and trickster figures, as well. They’re so creepy, but in an oh-so-appealing way.”

“I have my nipples pierced, too, twice in each one,” I tell her, lifting up my shirt again to show them off. She pretends to wince in pain, but I can tell she is fascinated.

After finishing our coffee we decide to go for a drive, chatting and flirting over the trip-hop sounds of Tricky pulsing rhythmically from my speakers. The music grooves perfectly with the coming twilight as the sun begins to descend in a magnificent pool of brilliant reds, yellows, oranges, and purples, the texture of the billowy clouds designing the sky made all the more pronounced by the sun’s rays. I tell her I feel as though I’ve known her since before forever, and she confesses to feeling the same. I spot a Baskin Robbins near the next intersection, and we pull in to share a cup of Daiquiri Ice.

We end up at my place, and I apologize for the mess as I hold the door to my apartment open for her. She smiles mischievously, pulling me inside and pressing her lips to mine.   She is wearing lip gloss, or was, most of it worn off by now, but the faint taste of strawberries still lingers. We stumble over furniture I had forgotten was there as we make out way toward my room at the back of the apartment, grabbing and pulling feverishly at one another’s clothes while kissing deeply, passionately, lovingly.

“I don’t usually do this,” she breathes into my ear as I nibble at her neck.

“Me neither,” I gasp, but can’t help wondering, Why would she do this now, here, with me?

I notice right away that she’s not turned on by the same things as Kate was. I try to recall some of the articles I’ve skimmed in waiting rooms or while browsing magazine racks, giving advice on how to become the perfect lover. As we explore one another, she makes the appropriate muffled moans and occasional ecstatic cries, signifying that she’s having a good time, but she seems distant, disconnected somehow. Each time our eyes meet, she closes hers, or looks away. I wonder to myself how many times she’s done this, with how many different people, and as if she’s reading my mind, she answers.”

“This is my first time,” she moans between frantic breaths. “You feel so good.” I smile and relax, burying myself in the moment and letting my fear and paranoia wash away in a sea of pleasure.

“This is my favorite part,” I whisper as we lie spooning afterward. She coos in agreement, snuggling closer and pressing her face into my chest. I kiss the top of her head lightly, and suddenly it is morning, the warm dawn sun streaming in broken rays through the shade covering my window and painting fragmented orange designs on the floor below.

                “Oh my god, I have to be to work in ten minutes,” she exclaims, jumping up, her eyes frantic as she searches the floor for her clothes. “Quick, get up! I need a ride!”

Image by John Sloan

Image by John Sloan

To be continued…


© Ryan Scott Sanders and Dharma and Belligerence: Mad Rants from a Free-Range Buddhist Hooligan, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ryan Scott Sanders and Dharma and Belligerence: Mad Rants from a Free-Range Buddhist Hooligan with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Porcelain Strawberry (Part II)

Image by Bill Vernon

Image by Bill Vernon


What follows is a selection from The Sacred Lost Tomes of The Ryan, the brief and terrible history of which is glossed over here and here.  “Porcelain Strawberry” is the second piece of short fiction I can recall having ever written, not including whatever crap I may or may not have been churning out in my adolescence, and will be presented here in several parts over the next few days.  It was initially written for an assignment in a creative writing class at the University of New Mexico, and was influenced and informed by Nicholson Baker’s novella The MezzanineBut I won’t tell you HOW…that’s for you to discover, intrepid reader!  Go here to read Part I.  BEHOLD, Part II, below: 

strawberry-field-sweet

I’m sitting in my bedroom a few days later, staring at the blank wall and trying not to think, when the phone rings. It takes me a minute to retrieve myself from the mountains and valleys of cracked paint before I can answer it. I’m delighted to hear her delicate voice on the other end.

“Hey, it’s me! Listen, this new piece I’m working on is driving me absolutely mad, and I really could use some normal human time. What do you say we get that cup of coffee? I know a great place. They have this cinnamon and cherry mix, you wouldn’t think it would be good, but just wait until you try it!” I wrinkle my nose at the thought of cherries, but accept her invitation anyway. Maybe it won’t be so bad.

The directions to her place are simple and I have no trouble finding it, but I circle around the block a few times anyways to kill time, not wanting to appear too eager. Finally I feel that it’s been long enough, and pull up to her apartment, a duplex with a small, yellowing lawn nearly overrun by ragweed and dandelions. As I walk towards the caged front door, I notice a dead sparrow lying at the edge of the walkway, its eye sockets seeming to stare at me regardless of their hollowness. There are bite marks around the head and wings, and I hope the cat belongs to the neighbors.

“Hey there, pretty lady,” I say with a hint of absurdity when she opens to door. She smiles, apparently satisfied with my meager attempt at humor, and grabs a woven green handbag before stepping out and shutting the door behind her.

“So, how have you been?” I ask, bringing up my hand to fiddle with a loose button on the western-style black shirt she is wearing over a deep purple tank top. I’m dismayed to find what appears to be a clump of shed cat hair clinging to the shirt, and brush it away, wiping my hand on my faded denim jeans and trying not to appear too disgusted. I think she’s saying something about the painting she’s been struggling with, but I’m too preoccupied with the thought of the cat to pay attention. We begin down the walkway, and I move my hand to the small of her back, letting it rest there lightly.

“Better now, though,” she replies, crossing her arms and leaning into me. “I’m going crazy spending all my time in that cramped apartment breathing paint fumes. It’s good to have someone to take a break with.” I ever-so-slightly tighten my grip around her and lead her to my truck, a beat-up brown Toyota that I can’t help but apologize for.

“Don’t be silly,” she says, jabbing me playfully in the ribs with her elbow. “I’m not the kind of girl who cares about nice cars and money.” I smile down at her, catching the scent of strawberries and cream as my nose brushes past her hair.

“Mmm, you smell delicious,” I say, and she smiles, cuddling underneath my arm. For a fleeting moment I can’t believe how easy this has been, and a slight twinge of anxiety begins to creep up inside of me, one of those “too-good-to-be” sensations. I also can’t help but think about other guys she might have been with – is she so trusting and open with every jerk-off who approaches her? The feeling of anxiety begins to turn into resentment, but I quickly push it down, suffocating it.

At the coffee shop I let her order for me, forgoing my usual bitter, black coffee in favor of the cherry-cinnamon concoction she so highly recommends. She asks for them grandé with a double shot of espresso, and once served we sit at a tiny table for two in the corner near a bookshelf, under a large print of Dali’s La Persistenza della Memoria. She catches me studying the minute details of the painting, and asks what I think of it. This reveals that we hold a shared fascination for his work, and I discover that she owns a print of my favorite Dali painting, Idylle Atomique et Uranique Melancolique. We are oblivious to the endless stream of self-important art neuveux intellectuals entering and leaving the café as we sit together in our own little world.

Dali_Idylle_Atomique_et_Uranique_Melancolique

To be continued…


© Ryan Scott Sanders and Dharma and Belligerence: Mad Rants from a Free-Range Buddhist Hooligan, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ryan Scott Sanders and Dharma and Belligerence: Mad Rants from a Free-Range Buddhist Hooligan with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Porcelain Strawberry (Part I)

Image by kanryuzonas104

Image by kanryuzonas104

What follows is a selection from The Sacred Lost Tomes of The Ryan, the brief and terrible history of which is glossed over here and here.  “Porcelain Strawberry” is the second piece of short fiction I can recall having ever written, not including whatever crap I may or may not have been churning out in my adolescence, and will be presented here in several parts over the next few days.  It was initially written for an assignment in a creative writing class at the University of New Mexico, and was influenced and informed by Nicholson Baker’s novella The MezzanineBut I won’t tell you HOW…that’s for you to discover, intrepid reader!  Behold, Part I:

Image ripped from Isabella

Despite its glorious capacity for mindless consumerism, the mall for me holds next to no value save for one redeeming quality – it is an ideal place to watch people. For the most part I have no use for the human virus plaguing this otherwise richly beautiful planet, but I enjoy watching them now and again, to remind myself of my superiority. The pleasure I receive from witnessing them ignorantly going about their meaningless lives exceeds most any other joy in my life.

I’m sitting in the bustling food court, during the late lunchtime rush, eating the grilled chicken and avocado sandwich I brought from home, and am delighted to find that the chaos at this hour is, as always, magnificent. This place is a churning pit composed of various antagonistic compounds that have no business existing within the same sphere. They assemble here at or around the sociologically predetermined time, bouncing and weaving feverishly amongst one another, to stuff themselves stupid with globs of congealed grease disguised as chicken and pork, bleeding slabs of meat purported to be 100% beef accompanied by sides of fried dripping wet with vegetable oil, and an endless array of processed cheese products.

The doomed offspring of this middle-class ocean of dead dreams and extinguished possibilities gather salivating at the technicolored candy shop near Pacific Sunwear, their noses pressed to the glass, their grubby little hands smearing it with greasy fingerprints that the pocked-faced teenager behind the counter comes to wipe off every hour or so. On the other side of the court, hear Burger King, a table-full of guffawing frat boys have gathered for a break on their weekly scout-out for vulnerable and impressionable high school girls. In the corner across from me sit a couple with matching lip piercings deep in conversation, the face of the guy reading a mixture of frustration and concern while the expression of his partner is showing of distance and irritability. Next to me I notice three elderly women sporting puffy crowns of bluish-white hair gossiping about someone named Lois, who is apparently not present to defend herself. I scratch the back of my head, smooth down my shaggy, dirt-blonde hair, and roll my eyes at this sea of meaningless drivel.

All of this bustling action and delightfully absurd entertainment, and yet the only thing I can really focus my full attention on is the girl casually walking the edge of the mess, her long, chalky fingers trailing along the wall near to where my table sits. She is a dark angel, a succubus, a materialization of all my longing. Her jet-black hair falls lightly around her face, the tips of her long bangs curving ever so slightly under her delicate chin. Her aqua-blue eyes shine brilliantly in contrast to the soft, porcelain skin that surrounds them, her slender neck leading down to smooth, milky-white shoulders that barely peek out from under a wooly black sweater. Every so often her eyes shift around the court uncomfortably, but for the most part she gazes at nothing, her thoughts lost in some other world far away from this one. I look at her and my stomach tightens at the thought that she’s in the same space with me. She is the only individual, the only thing real in this faceless crowd of forgotten identity, and I curse them for overlooking her. I watch her tracing lines in between the tiles of the wall as she walks, back and forth, back and forth, and my heart aches with longing to hold her, to touch my lips softly to her temple, to let her make me feel at home.

After a moment I work up the courage to approach her, running my hand across the stubble beginning to sprout up on my chin as I slowly, deliberately make my way towards where she dances absently with the wall. The noise and bustle of the food court has all but disappeared. I feel the eyes of everyone in the room following me, half-chewed strands of Cajun noodles dangling from their mouths as they pause to obsess over my every move. I take deep breaths, trying to calm my nerves, going over and over again in my mind what I’m going to say when I reach her. Hey there, pretty lady … Hello beautiful, how’s about I buy you a … Hi, my name’s Corey, what’s yours … So, I couldn’t help but notice you were … Um, nice shoes, wanna fuck?

“Um…hey. How’s it going? Are you…waiting for someone?” I curse myself for the tremor in my voice, the obvious hesitation, the pauses in between words. You’re going to fuck this up, my mind yells at itself. You’re going to lose her before you even have her! Fortunately, she doesn’t seem to notice. Time has grinded to all but a halt, and I see her hair flip in slow motion, like a wave, as she turns to face me. My stomach jumps into my throat, my heart nearing explosion, when her eyes look up to meet mine. I feel as though she is gazing into my soul, and I shift uncomfortably, averting my eyes, afraid of what she might see down in there.

“No one in particular,” she says to me, her voice bright, sweet, and delightfully feminine. I notice the neon lights flooding the food court glistening off her lips as she speaks, and I wonder if they’re naturally moist or if she’s wearing lip gloss, and if so, what flavor. I realized the moment that has passed in silence, and frantically search for something to say.

“So, do you…come here often?” This escapes my lips before I have a chance to realize how terribly cliché and predictable it is. Idiot! Loser! Is this how people start a conversation?! Her eyes widen amusedly as she notices my exasperation seeping through the look on my face, which I try hard to control, and she giggles, her lashes fluttering…is it seductively?

“I used to,” she replies. “I usually wouldn’t be caught dead in a mall…they’re so, I dunno, typical…but they have got the best baked ziti at that pizza stand over there! I can’t help it, I’m addicted.” I open my mouth and take a breath, preparing to tell her about the article I read in Mother Jones, a study of the conditions of fast food restaurants, but hesitate. My stomach curls at the thought of what goes into the food here, but I don’t want to gross her out, and so I keep it to myself. If things go well, I’ll have to remember to ask her to brush her teeth before I can kiss her.

“Anyways, I’ve been stuck in my tiny apartment painting for days,” she continues, “and I needed a break, so here I am!”

“Wow, so you’re an artist!  That’s really cool. I’ve always wished I could draw, but I’ve never been any good at it.” I’m surprised at the ease I’m starting to feel in her presence, and when I notice how comfortable she’s making me, I find myself drawn ever more strongly to her. I reach out to stroke the sleeve of her sweater, and am glad when she doesn’t pull away.

“Listen, what d’you say we get out of here,” I say, smiling to mask my fear at asking her out. “I know a great coffee shop.” This is a lie, and I search my mind, trying to think of the nearest non-corporate café around.

“Well, that sounds nice, but I sort of have to be somewhere. Maybe I can take a rain check?” I make no attempt to mask the disappointment I feel at this, but give her my phone number, glad that I might still have a chance.

Image by Flammietta

Image by Flammietta

To be continued!


© Ryan Scott Sanders and Dharma and Belligerence: Mad Rants from a Free-Range Buddhist Hooligan, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ryan Scott Sanders and Dharma and Belligerence: Mad Rants from a Free-Range Buddhist Hooligan with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Discovery! Some Sacred Lost Tomes of The Ryan, Unearthed

lost_books

Some time ago, I wrote a short piece lamenting the apparent loss of most of my old pieces of writing.  While I still have not ascertained — and very well may never know — what became of the floppy disks that housed all of those precious tomes, I did make a priceless acquisition during the process of our recent thousand mile relocation:

Flickr Image via zoetnet

Flickr Image via zoetnet


Motherfucking hard copies, yo!  While there is still a significant amount of work missing (and that’s only based on what my less than stellar memory can recall), I am completely ecstatic at this sick discovery.  Or, I was until I read some of the shit…

"You serious, bro??"

“You serious, bro??”


Let’s just say, as it relates to my early years as a bard and a wordsmith, I thought much more highly of my skills and the brilliance of my creations at the time of their writing.  What I’ve found thus far (here’s hoping there’s more!) is mostly really shitty poetry, some questionable short fiction, and a few self-aggrandizing essays on philosophy and literature.  Regardless, and perhaps somewhat masochistically, I will be sharing bits and pieces of these Lost Tomes of The Ryan in coming weeks, or months, or as the inclination strikes me.  Still…don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Flickr Image via Gilderic Photography

Flickr Image via Gilderic Photography


Seriously, though.  The unjustified pretense is thick in this one…


© Ryan Scott Sanders and Dharma and Belligerence: Mad Rants from a Free-Range Buddhist Hooligan, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ryan Scott Sanders and Dharma and Belligerence: Mad Rants from a Free-Range Buddhist Hooligan with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Brief History of the Addict

I had my first panic attack over Thanksgiving holiday 2009. This is the first experience that I can recall which I would identify as a panic attack. The problem is, most of the preceding decade is full of blank spots, gaps of memory burned and washed away by drugs and booze. When this initial anxiety experience happened, I assumed that my lifestyle and bad habits had finally caught up with me and that the chemicals were to blame for any neurological issues. I am realizing now that the things I have been putting into my body have been a pursuit of oblivion, a meager attempt at self medication for much deeper problems.

I was driving through the Salt River Wilderness area of Arizona, on my way to Tucson from Farmington, NM. Having not visited family in Tucson nor seen Southern Arizona in years, I was excited for the quick holiday trip. A few miles back, a sign advised of a 6% gradient for the next several miles, and also indicated the narrow, twisting pass through Salt River Canyon was approaching. Just as I rounded a turn in the road and saw the vast, suffocating expanse of the canyon open up before me, a sudden tide of doom and foreboding overtook me. I knew I was going to die.

I’ve never had an issue with heights, driving mountain ranges, flying, any of that shit. For as long and deep into my childhood as I can remember, any time I’ve found myself staring over the edge of some daunting precipice, the only thoughts in my head are of leaping – not necessarily dying, just relinquishing control. There has never been fear accompanying those thoughts. In this moment, though, I don’t know if it will be because I pass out, lose control of my limbs, make a mistake in navigating, intentionally cut the wheel or what but I know I will die and it will be horrible and that is in this moment the only Fear and it is upon me and within me and crawling up my spine, infesting nerve coils, consuming me, it Is my brain it is my entire being and-

I am fortunate to have made a quick cut into a pull-off and shifted into park before I lost consciousness. When I come to seconds or centuries later, I am sitting in my Jeep still clutching the wheel in numb white-knuckle fists, drenched in sweat, the blood and cries of all things pulsing through my skull. My face is numb and bone-white. I can’t feel my hands or legs, or anything really, save for the seismic pounding of my battered heart in my chest. Nearly two hours later I am finally calm enough to continue driving, having to chant mantras and breath in patterns to get myself through the canyon and the rest of the several hundred miles to Tucson.

The next six months were a dizzyingly fast downward spiral of pills, booze, erratic behavior, and increasing isolation, until a group of friends and family intervened and got my ass into a psych hospital and drug rehab program.  May 20, 2010 was my first day “clean” or “sober” in as long as I could remember.  I went through the program and following eight months of rigorous addict step work with vigor and promise, a soul reborn and swelling with hope. Then, suddenly, New Years weekend, I bought two bottles of whiskey and a handful of Oxy and relapsed in glorious fashion, including breaking my fibia and tibula on an icy driveway whilst attempting to fetch my cigarettes.

The downward spiral anew. Nursing a freshly fractured leg and a glorious supply of pain killers, I was soon without a job, losing my home, and eluding the authorities all over again.  More booze. More drugs. No sex. A suicide attempt. A 24 psych hold. Rinse, repeat.

Relocating from Farmington to Tucson permanently in August 2011, building new bridges even as I torch the old ones, I eventually managed to start getting my shit together. A job. Then another one, because the first one sucked balls. A meager social life. I started doing things other than chemical suicide.

I met an angel. I fell in love.

I put together a few days free of drugs and booze. Then weeks, months. A year. More days.

But the Crazy kept bleeding through. The things I was addressing and resolving in my life still weren’t getting at the root of the problem.  Even without the chemicals, I soon began to unravel, a downward spiral anew that would prove to be the most destructive yet.

My head exploded on Sunday, March 1st. Hardly believable thay date is only a week ago. I had been lashing out at those closest to me for weeks, months, testing their boundaries and their affection for me. I can always see in hindsight that what I am doing in those moments is passive aggressive and destructively co-dependent and insane, but as it is happening it is as though I am operating outside of my own conscious control. A tasmanian demon of emotion and resentment and weakness and loathing. A black hole.

I pushed Jenn away so that she would cling closer to me. Her and I had discussed this behavior at length, she knew that it was something I did in moments of weakness and self-pity, and I knew it was not a game she was keen to play. In a realm of logic and reason, I am always aware of these things. But when the noise in my head is so loud, I do not operate in a world of logic or reason.

I pushed her away hoping she would pull back closer. When she didn’t do the thing the way it happened in my head, I got angry. I got desperate. I put too much pressure in and my head exploded. Insanity and fear and loathing and psychosis and scorn and violence and absolute unrestrained wrath was unleashed and rained down upon my world.

I screamed at her. Called her a fucking bitch. Pleaded with her. Grasped, desperate and clinging. Assaulted her with my words. Destroyed her.

And then, with more pills, and more booze, and more suffering, I tried to destroy myself.

I still don’t know what is at the core of what is wrong with me. It makes me fearful and hateful and vengeful and paranoid. Sometimes I can see it. Lately, always I can feel it. It is a shadow that lives in my spine, a slithering grub nested in the base of my skull. When it takes form and spreads its wings the silken sound it makes is so loud and it is all I can hear. It is the only thing. The pain is consuming.

Just keep digging?

© Ryan Scott Sanders and Dharma and Belligerence: Mad Rants from a Free-Range Buddhist Hooligan, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ryan Scott Sanders and Dharma and Belligerence: Mad Rants from a Free-Range Buddhist Hooligan with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Catacombs of The Ryan: The Lost Writings

Old Books

I was fifteen the first time I left home. “Left home,” that is, in the sense of it being the first time I left the place that had always been my home to go live somewhere else. The “somewhere else,” in this case, wasn’t far — there was maybe a thirty minute drive between the two — and I wasn’t on my own. My mother and I moved from the rural principality of Fruitland into the “bustling metropolis” of Farmington, following her divorce from my father. Both parents have expressed some level of sorrow over this occurrence in the lives of my sister and I, but I embrace the event and its effects. I would not be the same person I am today without it. This was the first thing that really prompted me to start figuring things out for myself in the world. It was the most striking catalyst of my independence, both of thought and action.

Since then, I’ve moved fifteen separate times. Lived in thirteen different places. Established residence in three cities across two states. Still plenty of travel left to do.

travel map with push pins

But I digress

Focus Scrabble

With all of that tiresome moving — the packing and unpacking, the sorting, the storage, the arranging — with all of that activity, there are bound to be items, possessions, mementos, sometimes even people that break loose from the caravan and are left somewhere behind. Most of these things are never thought of or missed again. The thought, memory, the desire for some of them may come wandering back after a time. Occasionally, though…

TRAGEDY.

TRAGEDY.

Something of this sort has happened to Us here, now. Once upon a time, in an era oft referred to as “The Day,” there existed a now archaic and obsolete form of information storage and transportation known as a “floppy disk.”

NEVER-FORGET.

This “floppy disc” was the primary means of storing important digital documents during the time that I was in high school and college. Therefore, I once owned many a floppy disk packed full of various tediously assembled Word documents. Most of these are shit, and are not worth mention here.

But there were a few “special” floppies. These sacred repositories — of which there were at least two, but legend tells of more — were entrusted with the storage and protection of the earliest known writings of The Ryan. Finely honed short fiction. Laboriously extracted philosophical treatises. Fiercely ornate doggerel, dripping with pretense. Blood and tear-stained literary analyses, rescued by ego and hubris from the proverbial fires.

Handwritten Text

Hours upon hours of Our earliest Canon, a tribute to Our most malleable and formative development, bred of blood, soul, and youthful, anxious vitality. And We have discovered them all LOST.

Lost in the Desert

We encourage and appeal to all prophets and acolytes of We The Ryan — please be on the look-out for these priceless tomes. Untold fortune and reward awaits the auspicious disciple who may stumble upon these precious volumes of boundless wit and fancy, and return them to Our wretched, forlorn clutch!

Waterworld Paper


© Ryan Scott Sanders and Dharma and Belligerence: Mad Rants from a Free-Range Buddhist Hooligan, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ryan Scott Sanders and Dharma and Belligerence: Mad Rants from a Free-Range Buddhist Hooligan with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

How The Ryan Writes, Part I: The Harangued Warrior

“Writing in English is the most ingenious torture ever devised for sins committed in previous lives.”  — James Joyce

Voices In My Head

“You guys ever notice how burger joints in the fall always have that smell I finally discovered in my grandmother’s house to mow the grass, so I’ll catch up to fishing in the stream when I was a kid. But I digress…”  — Ryan Sanders

Inasmuch as The Ryan is composed of the many We, each of Us distinct in voice, temperament, action, tastes, each unique in composition yet united in the Whole, so is Our “process” when writing made up of many different habits, methods, techniques. As the occasion to do so arises, We will be sharing some insight into these processes from time to time. Perhaps in doing so, Our readers may come to know more about Us, but also We may come to understand more about one another and Ourselves.

Those Elite Few who keep a regular watch on Us mental patients might notice that things have been quiet for some time, up until today’s new post and various surprise updates. This is because We The Ryan have been embroiled in a bitter and costly internal war with Ourselves. Some might describe such a conflict as “procrastination” or “laziness.” However, for We, things are never so simple. And it’s all part of the process, from time to time.

This picture was unabashedly ripped from www.fromthewriteangle.com. When I steal, I have more time for writing...

This picture was unabashedly ripped from http://www.fromthewriteangle.com. When I steal, I have more time for writing…

We’ve been slowly and deliberately carrying out a staged insurgence on Ourselves to identify, target, and overcome those internal factions that would seek to undermine and assault the creative endeavors of The Ryan with campaigns of deceit, fear, disinformation, psychological torture, and disorder. Eventually, once all trace of sedition and insurrection has been eradicated, and the streets have run red with the blood of the nonbelievers, We can then use that blood as ink to pen a prosaic epilogue to the spoils of psychological warfare. Or something of the sort.

In any case, the process, as it played out today, looks something like this:

First, Our Esteemed Warrior must consume the lifesblood of Our slain enemies. This stage in the process is known as “Motivation”.

As you can see, Our motivation comes from a place of Love <3

As you can see, Our motivation comes from a place of Love ❤

Then, once properly motivated, We are able to write.

That's good keyboard, man...

That’s good keyboard, man…

All part of the process

Sound off in the comments about your own process, or whatever other thoughts fly into that pretty little head of yours!


© Ryan Scott Sanders and Dharma and Belligerence: Mad Rants from a Free-Range Buddhist Hooligan, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ryan Scott Sanders and Dharma and Belligerence: Mad Rants from a Free-Range Buddhist Hooligan with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Cobblestone Walkway of Broken Chords: Piecing Together Mine Own History of Music, Part I

“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.” — Victor Hugo

"Sky Pilot" by Virgil C. Stephens, www.musicalpainter.com

“Sky Pilot” by Virgil C. Stephens, http://www.musicalpainter.com

Anyone who knows me for even a few hours is aware of how ingrained music is in my life. I wish I could say that I meant creating music, but that is another project, and perhaps a discussion for another day. Here, I speak of my lifelong passionate appreciation of, and sometimes fanatic devotion to, the music created by other artists. Lately, I’ve been pondering the paths upon which my musical quests have taken me. My own Mellifluous Origin Story, so to speak. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about my earliest memories as a “fan”, even before I could have known what that meant, and about the way in which my tastes and interests in music, artists, genres, movements grew and progressed. And perhaps, in the end, reflecting on where I’ve come from might give me some insight into where I’m headed, hmmm?

(Origin Stories, You Say?)

My oldest memory is one that has stuck with me since childhood, always stored closely away for quick recollection or quiet reflection. Appropriately so, too, since that is precisely what a memory is, and is For. Time and experience have inevitably shaped and even, with subtlety or not, perhaps altered this memory, but that is not what’s important. With reminiscences, truth and accuracy do well to fall by the wayside of emotion and essential substance.

In this memory — and thereby, of course, once upon a time in my life — I am a toddler, probably no more than two years of age. I am sitting in my car seat, which is resting on the floor of the living room of our first home, a modified mobile home with custom additions and improvements built by my Pops. A Redneck Mansion, if I may.

redneck mansion

It is strange for me to think back to moments like this and remember my parents when they were younger than I am now. Those people were KIDS! And they were raising a human! But not just any human.

Ryan Toddler

ME.

What happened?!  So many things...

What happened?! So many things…

But I digress…

I am sitting in my car seat, staring in awe and wonder at the thick, bowed-glass screen of our giant wooden box of a television. On the screen towers Billy Idol. Blonde, spiked hair. Signature snarl. Punk rock attitude. Rebel Yell. I was enthralled, and I, too, wanted MORE… But, being an infant, I had neither the means nor the experiential knowledge necessary to seek out and acquire more, and so my development fell by the wayside. (Two uses of that expression in one essay! Not bad…)


From here, for a time, I entered a period known as The Dark Ages… Not much is known of The Dark Ages, because it was so very Dark.

Dark Ages Artwork by jonasdero.deviantart.com

Dark Ages Artwork by jonasdero.deviantart.com

My next major development, as far as my fragmented memory can recall, would foreshadow a significant coexistence throughout my musical travels between music and film. By fourth grade, my lifelong buddy Brandon and I had met and bonded over mutual weirdness, a proclivity towards the fringe, and a shared obsession with Billy the Kid. At the time, of course, this primarily manifested in a fixation with the Young Guns movies, and by extension the Bon Jovi soundtrack for Young Guns II. As we blasted “Blaze of Glory” and “Dead or Alive” from that sweet, sweet early 90s boom box and fashioned “I’ll Make Ya Famous” pistol stamps and collages in art class, we were convinced that Bon Jovi and the like were the epitome of bad-ass rock musicians. Later, Denis Leary would set us straight, but for now, fuckin’ “Never Say Die” was where it was AT!


From there, Brandon and I discovered music through movies we, occasionally in ignorance and naivety, attached our sensibilities to, such as Cool World and Wayne’s World. (I sense a pattern?) Not all was for naught, however. Because, in the very least, those movies introduced us to David Bowie, Ministry, Queen, RHCP, Ugly Kid Joe, Alice Cooper…actually, the Wayne’s World soundtrack is still pretty fuckin’ good!

But I digress…

None of this could have prepared Brandon and I — or the world at large, as history would prove — for what would happen next in our euphonious lives. The early 90s found us and all of rock ‘n roll on the precipice of something that was never intended to indelibly mark and reshape culture and society the world over. But nothing significant or culturally affluential ever is. I speak, of course, about the tidal wave of social hysteria and upheaval that was Nirvana.

Nirvana

Growing up in the Kirtland/Fruitland area of San Juan County, New Mexico, Brandon and I — and everyone else, really — were always, by default, a bit behind the aesthetic curve from the “rest of the world.” Occasionally, one could discover something “new” and intriguing by accident, or one of us would bring something intriguing back from The City and share it with anyone with a curious disposition. (Did I forget to mention I was raised in a 1940s dust bowl? Just kidding.) But beyond fortune and chance, you really just had to know what to look for and laboriously seek it out. Fortunately, times have changed for the Four Corners and culture. I mean, they got a show from Lamb of God last year, for Christsakes…

(Not to mention MervDezert Banditz, Ill Methods, and any other local musical acts.  Leave a link for your group or project in the comments!)


I vaguely recall the circumstances by which we came to discover Kurt and the Boys. It had to have been sometime in 1992, and I would imagine this was a brisk fall morning before the daily drudgery of our first year in middle school. The cool, dry high desert breeze…the changing of the leaves…the wafting, charcoal scent of smoke as local drunken rednecks set their property on fire doing “landscaping”…Brandon, skinny bean pole of a boy, bristling with frenetic energy, shoving a CD into my stiff, icy fingers. “Hey dude, my sister listens to this. Check it out!”

Subtlety.

Subtlety.

On the cover, bathed in aquatic blue highlights, a naked baby, arms and legs splayed in an awkward floating pose, coaxed by a dollar bill on fishing line. Nobody but no one should have any trouble immediately conjuring their own specific memory of this album at that conspicuously pervasive, instantly recognizable photograph. But, I’ve been surprised by ignorance before, so just to be certain, I speak of course of the watershed landmark album Nevermind. If you don’t know or understand the cultural, artistic, sociological, and historical significance of this album, I would like to introduce you to the internet. Pretty sure you’re using it RIGHT NOW.

This only captures about 30% of the Internet's Awesome!

This only captures about 30% of the Internet’s Awesome!

In any case, I will never forget the ingenuous awe and precipitous exhilaration that overcame me during that first listen. I can barely stand to hear “Smells Like Teen Spirit” these days, a bitter casualty of hackneyed pop culture oversaturation. But, the first time that pervasive and cataclysmic riff hit my ears was fucking LIFE-ALTERING! Who ARE these feral, deranged beasts? Where do creatures like this come from? What is this frenetic sensation arising from my soul? Why are they so…so fervent, so excitedly zealous? And HOW can I get MORE?!


To be continued… In the meantime, sound off in the comments! What was your first significant musical experience, or other formative moment? Did Nirvana and Nevermind carry a significant weight for you? How far back can you remember, or what is your earliest recollection? Let Us hear from you!


© Ryan Scott Sanders and Dharma and Belligerence: Mad Rants from a Free-Range Buddhist Hooligan, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ryan Scott Sanders and Dharma and Belligerence: Mad Rants from a Free-Range Buddhist Hooligan with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

CLICK.

[What follows is an original piece of fiction I wrote some years ago, previously published in Conceptions Southwest, per the citation below.]


CLICK.

Old Wood FloorIn my mind I know what’s waiting at the top of the steps. I always know. Still, I take them, slow, careful, aware of the sickened creak that the weathered boards make under my weight. Once I reach the top, every time, I try to stop myself. Turn back, I say. Don’t walk down that hall. Don’t look through that doorway.

Every time, my feet disobey, carrying me to the room at the end of the hall. A sliver of pale dusk sunlight gasps its way through the crack made by the slightly open door, spilling onto the dull wooden floor. I step cautiously to the door, the light warming a slice of my face, blinding my right eye. A breath, a moment of nauseous realization, a splinter in my finger as I nudge open the door. Then there’s the blood. The sick warmth of the room, the way it crawls, stinging, into my nostrils. My father, barefoot, slumped over his shotgun. I imagine the vacant, listless look in his eyes, just before he hears it. Click–

I found him a week before my tenth birthday, but in the dream I am as I am now–26, sagging shoulders, a belly that crumples on top of itself when I sit. I am rarely shaven, my hair sticks at odd angles that I don’t care to smooth down. I wonder at my own fate, how it might resemble his, vacant promises to myself when I think of my son. He came when I was twenty, living with his mother more out of comfort than genuine affection. I used to write to him often, sending candy or a toy car when I could, but the letters started coming back a few months ago, the mark from the post office in dull red.

I always wake with the click.

* * *

I count the change in my pocket, adding it to the crumpled bills, and the lady hands me a burrito wrapped in white paper, damp with its warmth. Outside I expose an end and bite deep into it, tasting almost instantly the heat of the green chile and the smoky flavor of the carne adovada. It makes my mouth water, and for a moment, it will calm the churning in my stomach.

As I finish my meager lunch, I spot Hefty down the street, waddling his way toward me. He’s dragging something, I can’t see what. His name is Jeff, but on the street we call him Hefty, mostly because of his weight and partly because he thinks himself the boss, always trying to order everyone around, as if he had a reign on the desperate freedom these streets bring. Shit, he hasn’t even been out here that long. I wipe my mouth with the crumpled wrapping paper and push myself with a foot off the wall, giving Hefty half a wave.

Hey Fano, he calls to me, his breath heavy. Why don’t you help me with these?

I see now he’s got two fat, worn tires in tow on a wiry rope, scraping along the sidewalk. Get them yourself, pinche gordo, I say with a smile before moving to help him. What the hell do you need with two tires, anyway?

You never know, he says. We bring the tires to Hefty’s spot down the alley, rolling them behind a grimy dumpster near his folds of bedding.

You get any big tips?

I chuckle, shaking my head. Business slow today, jefe, I say.

* * *

The first time I saw Lucia was at my cousin’s graduation party. It might have been my party, too, but I gave up on school a long time ago. I remember–she catches my eye as soon as I step into the soft yellow light of the den, a haze of cigarettes and mota hanging in a dome over the circle of tattered furniture. She sits on a couch in the corner of the room, between Alejan’s girl and some kid I don’t know. Her smile warms the room as her brown eyes meet mine.

I look quickly away, searching the room for Alejan, asking him where I can get a drink.

A week later I see her again as I leave the construction yard where I work. In the lazy afternoon light I get a better look at her, able to notice the soft earth tones of her skin, her long eyelashes that don’t need makeup, her full pouty lips. She walks up to me as I beat the dust from my faded jeans.

Hey, she says, and I turn to face her, squinting at the sun as it halos her form. Alejan gave me directions, she tells me. He said I should meet you.

I smile to mask the discomfort I feel. He should have let you catch me at a better time, I say, gesturing at my filthy clothes. But what I really mean is, I’m not prepared for this.

She follows me home, and after I shower and change I drive her to Beto’s on the other side of town. A real hole in the wall, but they have good carne asada and cheap beer. Her warm eyes and her subtle, earthy scent make me forget myself for a moment. A month later we live together. It’s a year, though, before I tell her about the dreams.

* * *

I knew something was wrong, she says. Why didn’t you tell me sooner? She lies on the bed next to me, propped up on one arm. I see worry in her soft eyes. Her tiny hand strokes the dampness off my cheek.

I didn’t think it mattered, I say, turning on my side so I don’t have to face her.

It matters to me, she says, wrapping herself around me and pulling me close. It matters if it affects your sleep, if it affects us.

It won’t, I say. It hardly ever happens. I turn and nestle myself into her neck. I try to breathe her in deep, let myself relax in her arms. She holds me close, runs fingers through my hair and along the base of my spine. I feel like, maybe, it’s all that I need. Until she tells me about the baby, a few months later, it seems that it is.

* * *

Hefty goes off to catch the bus to Old Town. They don’t know me there, yet, he says. Better for business if they haven’t seen you hanging around too much.

I wander listlessly after he’s gone, the harsh noon sun beating down upon me at an angle that makes no room for cool shadows. Eventually I return to the alley, sit atop the dumpster, and stare into the dusty crevices between the bricks of the wall, the scent of decaying trash and stagnant water stinging my nostrils. After some time Nico saunters up, a toothy smile painted across his leathery face.

Who put the feather in your ass, I say as he nears me, bobbing his head to a silent tune. He doesn’t answer, and he doesn’t need to. His pupils and the blood-strained space around them tell enough.

Idiot, I say, shaking my head. That shit’s gonna end you.

* * *

Later I check my box at the post office, knowing I’ll find nothing, but hopeful just the same. I keep the box because it’s the only thing I haven’t lost in my life, and because I know if Lucia ever wants to find me, this is the only way she’ll know how.

I remember when she left, taking Benicio. I am gone, on my monthly trip to the unemployment office. I come home to find the empty bones of the apartment, cleared of our few possessions, only the piss-stained mattress lying defeated in the corner of the muggy room. I stay in the apartment for another month and a half before the landlord changes the locks.

It takes me a couple of weeks, but I finally badger Lucia’s new address out of her mother.

This is for the boy, not you, she tells me over the phone. Not much of a father is better than no father, she says and hangs up.

I send Lucia a letter, just to see how things are going. I only half expect her to write back, so I’m surprised to find a postcard from her almost two weeks later. On the front is a photograph of a deep green mountainside pierced by a waterfall, its billowing jets of white water frozen in free fall as they plummet into the misty haze below.

In the short paragraph on the other side, just below the Denver postmark, she tells me about Beni. He’s never been happier, she writes. Don’t worry about visiting, it says, just above her curvy signature. It’s the only letter I receive.

* * *

I hear it–click–and then she’s there, her hand upon my face, her eyes sharp, concerned. She wipes her fingers through the beads of sweat on my brow.

You went there again, didn’t you, she says. You found him again.

I can’t help it, I tell her. My sleep takes me there.

It’s happening too often, she says, sitting up. It’s affecting us, now. Pale blue moonlight peeks through the blinds and fragments her face.

A cry starts up from across the room, and she leaves the bed to check on him. She’s right. The dreams aren’t just inside me anymore. They make this place dark.

Soon the crying stops, and she crawls back next to me. I want to look at her, to see into her through her eyes, but I can’t make myself move. I want to say I’m sorry, to tell her it will stop, I’ll make it stop, to tell her I’ll be better for her, for Beni. I lie next to her, silent, until her breathing takes on rhythm.

* * *

The afternoon crawls, a long, vast nothing. I collect change for a while off the Interstate exit, offering the legal notices section of the paper for a quarter, a dime, whatever beat college kids in their rusty pickups and old ladies peering over the steering columns of their long, sleek town cars decide to spare. This is all I have today, I say with a shrug, and they trade change for the folded paper, tossing it behind seatbacks and rolling on with pitying half-smiles.

Eventually the sun falls to the horizon, sinking into distant mountains with rays of gold-piercing, shadowy building facades. This time of day always brings waves of yellow sickness to my stomach, like eating a bad egg. I turn my corner over with a nod to Jacob, carrying as always his bucket of wilted roses, and trudge toward Central. I count out change for a pint of Dark Eyes at the corner store on 3rd, and the clerk hands me the bag, the condescending darkness on his face unmistakable. I’m the first one to the alley–for most the night is young, but the day has been enough for me, and I’m ready for the warm blanket of drink, ready to walk the short night hallway once again.


© Ryan Scott Sanders and Dharma and Belligerence: Mad Rants from a Free-Range Buddhist Hooligan, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ryan Scott Sanders and Dharma and Belligerence: Mad Rants from a Free-Range Buddhist Hooligan with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

This work of fiction was previously published as follows:

Sanders, Ryan S. “Click.” Conceptions Southwest Vol. XXVII (2004): 107-110. Print.