Archive for December, 2011


Ebb Tide

by mdjb

Great waves of sadness that came in with the tide now with it return to the sea. No joy comes in their place; only the waves’ reflux. There is emptiness now where sadness dwelt. A cavernous shell of a soul longs for sadness to return. It was something at least. I will not speak of God.
This emptiness is unbearable, whereas the sadness could be borne. In pain, one felt alive. Empty, one feels nothing, perhaps the greater pain. If only the ebb tide could be grasped as it flows, if one could be pulled along with it to a new place—doubtless a place of pain, but one that could be learned.
Days passed and the feeling was learned, was absorbed through the roots until the soul said, “Yes, this I can live with.” Fate said then, “You will not. For everything that comes must leave. It is a way of learning. Take nothing for granted except: that which you accept will be taken.”
The wind dies and the water recedes. It laps the shore as if it will rise, but it is only a tease. On each return it only approaches nearly as close but recedes further and further. Here is a secret. The water will return in full but it will not be the same. It will be from parts somewhere vastly different. It may bring sorrow, but it will be a new kind of sorrow of a different provenance. Or it may bring joy, but again, it will not be the joy that preceded yesterday’s. Can one ever be ready for what the waves bring?
A wag said, “If you want to make God laugh, just make plans.” The tide of happenstance is God’s joke.
I vowed I would not mention Him, but had to because I wanted to get to the angels.
In the eerie silence of ebb tide before the wind picks up, if you listen intently, you can hear the murmur of angels. They have an inkling of God’s intentions, but they are not allowed to speak unless they are called as messengers, and that happens so rarely; hardly ever anymore, in a world waiting to be called to judgment.
Be reminded: when the tide is high, life will be rich with emotion, sadness, joy, fulfillment or loss, but in the interim we cannot know what to expect, we can only wait and see. If you go alone to a beach at the edge of the world and sit long gazing toward the sea, and even if you can hear the slightest murmuring of the angels when the tide is at ebb, you will never be prepared for what may come in with the waves tomorrow



by mdjb

“It sounds mercenary and it smacks of rats leaving the sinking ship. But get real, when everyone is bailing out, you don’t want to be the last man standing.”                             –Robbie Fowler

I was so tired that Saturday the rat came to stay. It was hot. I was living in southern Mexico, well into my second life.

I had had to go into school early to apply an exam that had been postponed from the week before. Only nine people showed up but I tried to assure myself that it is never a wasted trip (all the way across town) so long as somebody is there for the learning or the testing.

When I finally arrived home, after spending three hours at Plaza Crystal, I took a shower, opened my laptop and put the chronological CD I had compiled of pop MP3s from The Chordettes beseeching Mr. Sandman through Air Supply confirming I’m All Out of Love on the player. I lay on the studio bed to close my eyes for just a bit before starting to grade the pile of papers which had backed up on me, and promptly drifted off into some other time frame. I slept through the ‘Fifties and awoke to Ray Charles.

In my dream, I attended a Broadway show for which I had won tickets, lottery-style, and had an argument with my brother who died in Vietnam. I was at a party and just about to meet my future ex-wife when Ray Charles reminded me to, “Hit the Road, Jack.”

I got up to take a pee and discovered the water was low and I had to turn on the bomb, but was reluctant to go out back of the house because it was already dark, and I’d had trouble with rats lately. There was half a bottle of warm Coke on the table, and an opened pack of cigarettes. I tried to convince myself they would be enough until morning even if I did get up and work a while. It was 9: 30. I had slept for almost five hours. I never drink water from the tap here in this place, but if I wanted to wash my hands or even flush the toilet, I’d have to go out back and it would be later and visitors would be more likely. So I set my resolve and went downstairs.

I didn’t see anything moving, but I wasn’t convinced that something hadn’t slipped past me and I would discover the plastic bread wrapper chewed and a corner of the loaf missing in the morning.

I put the Coke in the little fridge to chill some of the warm out of it and went back upstairs, figuring if something furry began investigating in my kitchen I wouldn’t hear it under the music. Now Skeeter Davis was asking if they didn’t know this was The End of the World. I wondered how I could have slept for so many hours and woke up still in the ‘Sixties. Then thought I had spent far too many nights downloading old songs. I reckoned the CD could play for another couple of hours and it wouldn’t take me up to the time I had decided to move to Chiapas. It wouldn’t even take me to the time Alma and I split up. That much was by artful design. I never recorded those songs.

She had always told me she hated her life in Mexico. I could see why almost upon meeting her for the first time. She was sophisticated, an art lover, a business major who had trained herself to speak perfect English. In those days, I had never even vacationed here and from her poverty-laced stories thought I probably never would. Who could have seen that I would one day be sharing a house with a guy in Tuxtla Gutierrez? A guy who’s never around. Who has a full social life and plenty to do, and all those stories of deprivation, though ostensibly true had proven to have extenuating circumstances.

I had left the bomb working a little too long and only realized it when during a pause in the string of memories I heard water gurgling outside in the street, meaning the tank on the roof had overflowed and the excess was running off. So I had to go down to the damp, dank yard once again to pull the plug. By this time Johnny Cash was falling, “…down, down, down into a burning ring of fire.” I paused and smiled when I realized I must have been entering college then. Another couple of hours and I’d be dropping out to go work in the paper making factory. What a time I had there in Brooklyn, in those disco-inundated nights and sweaty, underpaid days, working hard to get nowhere and listening to sage advice from old, overweight George Sklar, who would shortly die of a heart attack while eating one of his wife’s greasy burgers. I didn’t even know I had a mission in those days, but I did store George’s philosophy in snatches of my favorite songs. The daylight songs, of course, the ones we heard from the tinny little radio in the lunchroom. You couldn’t associate anything meaningful with what I was listening to at night. That music was created for a different purpose. I still didn’t see anything moving when I re-entered the kitchen and locked the back door, but as I said, I take a lot of convincing, and so hurried back upstairs.

My housemate is a 39 year-old Tuxtleco who, though he pays half the rent on the house, still lives, to all intents and purposes, at home with mom and dad. That’s the way of things here in Mexico. I sometimes think, boy, you haven’t seen anything of the world. You’re settling for this life, and for better or worse, I made my own choice. Several women have drifted through these days, mostly friends of his friends, but none of them with Alma’s drive.

I graded papers for about an hour and a half until a rash of Beatles’ songs reminded me that Alma would soon be walking into my life and the music would end. I was getting hungry, and thought I’d have a peanut butter sandwich and finish off that Coke. However, when I went down and reached for the bread, I noticed it had already been got at. There was a sizeable chunk missing. I didn’t feel like opening another can of beans, so I took the jar of peanut butter, a spoon and the soda and headed back upstairs.

I closed my bedroom door. It was warm in the room and I knew the fan would not cool it off sufficiently even with the window opened. But the Coke was cool now, and I’d go back to sleep soon. I had another CD to plop onto the player. The late ‘Nineties were bearable. I could deal with the rat in the morning.