Thursday, January 21, 2010

Why Would God Let This Happen?

Now, I have seen some bad movies in my lifetime — Showgirls, countless straight to home video horror films, any original Syfy Channel production — but nothing seems to be as satisfyingly cringe-inducing as "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra."
I didn't go into this Red Box venture expecting much. I knew it would be bad and that was the point (my friends and I have a past time of renting bad $1 movies which we then talk over and make fun of). But for some reason, it was like my senses were being stabbed with knives made of bad acting, stupid plot, ridiculous writing and unnecessary CGI.
And we've rented some appalling films already — pick a Nicholas Cage film since Con Air that is not Matchstick Men, X Men Origins: Wolverine with its bounding (bounding!) Liev Schriber and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen with your Jim Crow robots — but for some reason, this cobbled together action film couldn't even be fun to watch for explosions.
Again, my expectations are as low as my self-esteem while watching this Hollywood dog turd, but the actors couldn't even chew the scenery correctly. It could be that's because the actors included nobodies besides Dennis Quade (you're above this man) and one of the "White Chicks." But maybe, just maybe it is due to...I don't know...There was no scenery to chew besides a green screen in front of their dead-eyed, soulless faces.
I love how directors/producers go out of their way in big-time action films to insert CGI where it isn't needed. At all. For instance:
Michael Bay: "Hey, let's have this really cool set with flying robots and guys shooting at cyborgs."
Set Designer: Ok, I can probably get a drawing together of how you'd want it to look and I'm sure ILM can make up some models that with a few camera tricks, will get what you want..."
Bay: "Naw man, we'll just put some CGI in there."
Designer: "That will look very artificial and amateurish."
Bay: *throwing a tantrum* "I directed 'Armageddon'! Don't you think I know what amateurish would look like?!?!"
Designer: "I suppose you do."
In the "Knowing is Half the Battle" movie, when Destro gets his shiny head, it's CGI. WHY?!? You had a chance to make a great-looking, evil mask that would do the same thing and wouldn't look like you had university sophomore designers put a faux chrome head and face on the character. Apparently that's what you're going for.
And the climactic underwater sea battle. Oh, holy hell. What is this, Sealab 2021? No, because that's intentionally funny. The editing, on an almost entirely CGI setting, was horrendous. I couldn't tell if action figure character A was shooting at action figure character B or vice versa. And I couldn't tell if what was happening was bad or not. I guess we were supposed to be awed by the fact that G.I. Joes were assaulting an underwater lair. Which I was, but more by its stupidity than its intended shock and awe factor.
And I guess that's where the biggest problem lies. The action in the film wasn't fun or exciting. It was workman like. They gutted the only thing the movie could have had going for it — shit blowing up.
The action scenes were stereotypically placed between stilted, awkward, insidious dialogue so you knew it was coming. And when they tried to blow your mind, it came out like an underwater fart (kind of like how when you're a kid and you get an M80 and you think you'd better be careful or it'll blow your hand off, but instead it just pops).
Oh, and did I mention they work in the line "Knowing is half the battle"? Because they do. And the tongue is nowhere near the cheek that it should be for a line such as that.
Anywho, the fact that they made a straight to DVD movie and gussied it up to be a blockbuster is what gets me the most. It's not the memories of the childhood cartoon or that I played with G.I. Joes. I could care less, it's that they insulted me with this tripe and expected me to be impressed.
But at least it wasn't seven hours long like Transformers 2.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Let's Get Heavy for a Second

I often take to this place to write semi-humorous blog entry about some travail in my life. Well, if you will give me the luxury, I'd like to write something serious.

It's very clear to me that I fear boredom. Yes, fear. If I don't have something to fill my time or something to look forward to I kind of freak out or become depressed. I think it started in the wake of my divorce. After I split from Stacie, I was either at work, the gym or asleep and I was not at my apartment during a whole weekend (without a party to go to or some other function) for about 4 months. And it seems that since that time, I've settled into this lifestyle of filling week nights with the same activities and making sure there is something to do for the weekends. Maybe it's good that I want to go out and have experiences after so many years of being content to sit at home and watch TV every day, but I also think it's a little ridiculous of me to go out of my way to avoid staying at home, doing nothing for a few days.

And on the rare occasions where I didn't have something to do on the weekends, I often complain it's because I don't have an extensive network of friends here. Charlotte has pointed out that I claim to be bored and lonely because I miss my friends back home. It is true that I miss the bond we all had in high school, but I can say that I don't miss "home" or high school at all. Fact is that I know who my real friends are because they make an effort to stay in contact with me. Some even go as far as to move across country. And while I do regret that I left Magnolia right as I started making friends, the truth is I had outgrown that place and needed to get away. It held just as many bad memories as it did good ones. I still see the Magnolia clan and I enjoy it greatly. So I guess I get all the benefits without the negatives.

Yet, knowing that I have friends and people who care about me, I do feel lonely a decent amount of time. I think it's because I've been that way since I was a teenager. I've always felt like the people I put my faith in and share some part of my life with are just temporary, that they will never stay around for long or I won't. I'm sure that in some way that I make this a self-fulfilling prophecy, but so far it's been fairly accurate. It's very hard to trust people. I've always been self-sufficient and rarely needed someone to take care of me (anyone who saw me hopping around on one leg to fix my dinner or do laundry when I tore my ankle up a couple years back can attest to this). It's only been recently that I needed someone other than me to entertain myself.

But I'm being all emo and whiny. There's much bigger things to worry about. Like healthcare, the economy, the environment or WWIII. I guess I should tackle that on my next entry. Sean's essay on why the world is going to hell in a hand basket.

God, I'm so cheery today I can barely stand it.

"Alone is a state of being, loneliness is a state of mind." — Townes Van Zandt

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Why Pale Boys Hate the Beach

So my face has started peeling. I look like Freddy Kruger as Ray so astutely pointed out. I have a sunburn under a sunburn. Is that possible? Maybe I should back up...

I went with Courtney and Dane to Houston to see Clayton (actually, Courtney's mom and sister were going to a wedding in Houston and we tagged along for a free ride). So we swam in Courtney's mom's hotel pool and then had dinner on a boat. Yes, I was on a boat. Yes, like that song. And no I didn't have my flippy floppies. Anyway, we went to Galveston the next day and were very ill prepared.

No towels, swim trunks, sun screen, water, or anything really. Except my beloved iPod. Dane and Clayton bought beach towels and Dane bought some swim trunks. We had a little nerf football to throw around on the beach while Dane swam in the ocean. Courtney and I ate at McDonald's to save money. I know, lame. But whatever. Anyway, I eventually ended up about waste deep in the ocean after I couldn't take the heat anymore. Next thing I know Dane comes bounding out of the waves with his face contorted in several different positions. Turns out, he was stung in the foot by a sting ray. So now, Dane has a painful, bleeding wound on his foot. Courtney, Clayton and I are all burned and sopping wet. And we still had to walk the 2.5 miles back to the car (Oh, did I mention we parked 2.5 miles from our position on the beach? Because we did).

Then we took showers at Clay Ray's hizzy and looked around a giant mall, had dinner brought to us in the theater while we watched Public Enemies at the Alamo Draft House. My giant hot dog was disappointing. Almost as disappointing as Johnny Depp's performance. Ba-zing! Then Sunday we rode three-deep in the backseat to Shrevesburg, which is a 4 and 1/2 hour drive. Yummers. Oh, and Courtney's mom can't see or read road signs. So we had to literally guide her from the back seat. Never again I tell you. Never again.

All in all, it was pretty damn fun. Hard to have a bad time when your with your two best friends and you're getting to hang out with a friend you haven't seen in 7 months. Good times.

My face looks like pieces of a brown paper grocery bag are falling off it. How gross. And it is still pink and hurts! I don't get you nature. Why must you do the things you do? And why do you hate me so much sun? I mean, I'll get a wicked tan, but why such a high price?

I just turned 25. I'm so old. I can feel death's steely, cold hand on my shoulder. A quarter of a century, but I don't feel a day over say, how old I just was. Yeah, 24. That's it. Still, I know that it is supposedly down hill from here. But I am warning everyone now that I will try my best not to let youth out of my kung fu grip. I like doing things and acting silly. It's what I'm good at. I mean, we have to grow up, but just keep your youth on tap. Don't be prematurely old. Don't be Jacob and Lindsay.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Shaving

Ok, so I shaved. And it was a two-day process, but totally worth it. I know I went back on my promise to keep growing my natty hair and beard for the summer, but I just couldn't stand it anymore. A coworker was taking pictures while I was conducting an interview and he got me in one shot. While going through the pictures on my computer, I found said photo and didn't recognize myself in the picture. And I looked about five years older. Not good. So that night I went home and took care of it.

First we carved a mohawk but that doesn't look good on thinning hair. Then I held up my end of the bargain to shave a fu manchu for Jacob. He was way too eager for this and way too happy with the results. But nevertheless, I did it and kept it for that night after some bargaining. Let me state for the record, I hated it with every fiber in my being and I cut it shortly into Saturday morning.

Now I am all trimmed and proper. It helps during the summer to be such a way. I feel all light and airy.

So that concludes Friday evening (besides the fact that everyone besides Courtney, Josh and me got CRUNK, which means Jacob was in rare form and hilarious while we sat around the Noble Savage and Stray Cat). On to Saturday...

Heather, Zach and Laura weren't punks and came down to participate in the trial run of Competitive Hide and Go Seek. We started later than planned, but it worked out as we finished at dusk. There are some tweeks that need to be made, but it was a ton of fun and was pretty much what we expected. It kind of felt like we were in the Bourne Identity without all the punching. Courtney and I made up Team Shake (Aqua Teen Hunger Force Reference) and only got found once in the three rounds we were on the run while we found everyone else when it was our turn. Needless to say we took it home and got a free dinner from Golden Land Superior that night. Thai food is yummy.

Then we sat around listening to music over drinks at my place and reminiscing at old photos. Heather got ill and Dane took her to his place and they ended up just calling it a night. We all went back to Stray Cat and sat around. I ended up almost falling asleep, so we headed back.

Sunday was probably the best Sunday I have ever had. After sleeping in, we went to the garden behind the Norton Art Gallery and had a little picnic. Crab dip, peaches, rolls, chicken strips, wings, potato logs, mangos, pie and lemonade were some of the items consumed as we sat on the grass in the shade between two babbling streams. It was very nice and I hope to do it again in the near future.

All in all, one of the best weekends I've had...Probably ever.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Monday, March 16, 2009

One More Day

He awoke with sunlight burning his eyes. He blinked and tried to lay in bed a little longer, to no avail. He rolled over and looked at the clock. It was 10:20 a.m. He didn't bother to set the alarm anymore. He didn't bother to do much of anything anymore.
He pulled the heavy comforter off of himself and sat up on the edge of the bed. He noticed all the little things: the way the cheap carpet felt on the soles of his feet after months of putting them in the same place every morning, the way the room pressure changed as the air conditioner turned on, how quiet his neighborhood was at this time of day.
His slowed joints and aching muscles moved into action as he crossed the room in several steps. He had slept later than he wanted to, but what did it matter anymore? What reason was there to wake up on time when there was no reason to wake up?
He put his worn blue pajama pants on, feeling immediately safe in their cotton blend and familiarity. He walked into the living room partition of his small apartment. He wanted to turn on his TV but knew what awaited him. It would be the same thing it had been for weeks since the news broke.
It reminded him of the first few days after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, that tragedy now ominously and ridiculously reduced to the phrase 9-11. This looming disaster had no catchy acronym. The TV was just regurgitating the same drastic, horrifying, juxtaposed images of chaos in a place where there hadn't been chaos moments earlier. People dying, wreckage, terror and a sense of dread just rebroadcast on all the cable channels.This news was not just for news channels anymore, it was on every channel with the same images flashing as talking heads tried to spin it in a different way.
How tragic it was then and how ridiculous it was now, he thought to himself. Did everyone really need commentary about the end of the world? "We got it, thanks," he had said on the second day after the news broke. He didn't need Bill O'Reilly or Wolf Blitzer telling him what he already knew. In a matter of hours, he wouldn't exist along with some 6 billion other people. Everything he knew and loved would be rendered useless or extinct. No more petting the work cat in the back of the office, no more chili dogs or iTunes. He couldn't go to the gym and get in shape to impress whomever he was trying to impress. No, nothing really mattered anymore.
At first he was shocked, like everyone else on Earth. Imagine the same seven-word sentence hitting everyone on the planet in the same exact way. That by itself was unfathomable, let alone the news he was hearing. The first thing he did was call everyone in his cell phone's stored phonebook to discuss how crazy this was and how it must be a joke.
Then as it all began to sink in, he thought about all the things he wanted to do but put off or procrastinated on. "I'll never write a novel or find true love," were the first things that came to his mind. He had imagined taking a trip to Europe, but he didn't have enough money to pay for it. "I'll get a credit card and max it out," he said. But if our market hinges on futures, imagine what effect the President telling the nation the worst-news-anyone-could-have-pass-between-their-ears had on Wall-Street.
There were no banks anymore. It was a free-for-all and riots were numerous. He had managed to get a fair ration of food that would carry him through to Armageddon. That was what he cared about. He laughed at the people who took TVs and Mp3 players. "A lot of good that will do your frozen or charred carcass" he mocked in his head. Then again, what good was it to take food when it would only stave-off the inevitable? "I'm not starving to death, though. That's not the way to go out," he said to an audience of no one.
Chaos reigned for moments until martial law was declared. Those soldiers. They really will follow orders until the end. At least the military presence had lowered the number of flare-ups in his neighborhood. The only real problem he had with martial law was the psychological effects. It was those people he had thought of as lesser than him, the guys that couldn't hack it in school who joined the National Guard. And they now had Carte Blanche over him and his way of life. He hated it.
Clearance had to be granted to cross from one part of his tiny city to the next. He couldn't imagine what life in a major city must be like. It was true that the majority of New York, LA, Chicago, Detroit, etc. were burnt-out or abandoned. But what it must be like to walk dozens of miles to just get a basic necessity blew his mind. It was now, after all this time, that he enjoyed living in small town U.S.A.
The troops would heckle him, apparently just for fun. He couldn't walk around town for the sake of finding something to do without getting accosted for not falling to the ground, crippled by fear. When they questioned him, he said with fatigue at having to repeat himself, "What else am I supposed to do? Build a shelter so I can die in a closet? I just want to enjoy what time I have left. I don't want any trouble, I'm not going to steal anything. I just want to know what it's like to be alive before I'm not anymore." This speech usually allowed him a few minutes of peace before he was intercepted again.
It was this world and way of living, if that's what anyone could define as living, that he — Ray Morgan — awoke to on this day. The last day of the world.
He stood on the veranda outside his apartment. "It's nice today," he said with a sort of unexpected enthusiasm. The weather was warm, but not scorching, with plenty of sunshine. Luckily, he still had air conditioning because he had electricity and his cable service was still intact as well. The major corporations decided to ride out the last few months without cutting off service. Even they, big business, had realized the futility of billing in a situation like this.
His city still had its power grid and he was able to live in comfort compared with some across the nation. He could drink a glass of orange juice, cold from resting in the refrigerator. He could cook a fresh hamburger on his stove top. He realized that everything he had taken for granted, the simple life, was luxurious now. Sometimes he marveled at how undervalued simplicity can be.
The Bible had said that the end would come without warning. Well, leave it to NASA to prove God wrong. They had completely mapped out the path of the asteroid streaming towards earth, down to the location and exact time of impact. Ray watched in horror as computer diagrams brilliantly and precisely illustrated the end of civilization. It was due to hit somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean at 8:42 p.m., October 1, 2009. It would incinerate the water it made immediate contact with, crashing into the bedrock of the ocean floor, sending massive tsunamis crashing into the Eastern Coast of the U.S. and eliminating all of the U.K. The earth's crust would shift and debris from the impact would reign all around the Western Hemisphere, literally setting the world on fire. The east would freeze in a winter caused from the smoke of the burning earth. If any humans survived, they would essentially be transported a 1,000 years back in time.
Ray was glad that he was in the fire zone, so maybe the end would come quick. Or maybe he would have to hunker down and die a horrible death. The diagrams the TV showed was that he would probably be burnt up. But maybe, just maybe, he would have to live for months or years on canned beans and bottled water in a wasteland.
He prayed for the fire.
Ray moved his mouse back and forth to awaken his computer. He picked Radiohead's "Kid A" to play out the soundtrack of this anesthetized morning. He walked into his small, single stall shower and tried to feel alive again. The warm water did feel good bouncing off his skin and the smell of his bodywash acted as smelling salts. As he toweled off, he realized he hadn't felt good since early Spring. Every day since then, he had been going through the motions.
It was when his girlfriend of several years left him that the bottom fell out. He had retreated into a cocoon of anger, despair and forlorn love for months. He thought, then, that it was the end of the world. How wrong, but oddly prophetic, he was. Ray felt stupid for wasting those days on mourning for something that should have made him live more than ever. The loss of his love should have propelled him into the public, to try hard and find someone else or rely on friends. Instead, he had pushed everyone away and felt more alone than ever. Now, all he wants is to get those days back, to relive the times he had sat at home feeling sorry for himself wishing she would come back to him. He figures that if he had moved on and found someone that he could have at least tricked himself into loving, maybe this wouldn't be so bad. Maybe he wouldn't be left with emptiness.
Then again, it could be worse that way — knowing that you have something to lose. He was sure that would make all this worse. At least he could take comfort in that.
He put on an uninspiring shirt and jeans while the electronic drums of "Idioteque" heralded the "ice age coming." He chuckled at the lyrics and pointlessly walked around his apartment while trying to figure out what to do, living the ultimate hypothetical situation.
He always felt that he would do something completely out of character or radical in this situation, but all he could think to do was get a good meal and say goodbye to the people that meant something to him. Maybe he would get a lawn chair and watch the riots at the local Wal-Mart as the end neared. For sure, he was going to spend a little time with his friends to have a few laughs and reminisce about the soon-to-be previous era.
Ray locked his door out of habit. He descended the stairs and decided to take his car today. He hadn't driven it in a month, but he was already behind schedule and he needed to make up for lost time. He had a decent amount of ground to cover and decided that he didn't want to wear himself out walking around town. He climbed into the warm car, slightly cramped as his long frame had to fit into a foreign, compact sedan. He didn't bring a CD for the player, so he tried to find a radio station among static and the Emergency Broadcast System. He gave up and turned it down while a monotonous voice read instructions for what to do in case of the end times.
He crept past a grouping of soldiers inevitable preparing for the chaos that would occur later in the day and he drove towards his friend's house.
Alex's house was always unassuming. Even when he lived with his parents, you could have drove past it and not even noticed the little blue shingled, white cottage. Maybe that's why he liked it so much. It was a hideout – their hideout — that was their shelter through the storm that was high school. "God, that was so long ago," Ray said with astonishment clearly permeating his voice.
Ray climbed out of the car, not knowing what to expect. He hadn't see Alex in over six months, since he climbed inside himself. He blamed Alex for the distance that had formed between them. Alex didn't even try to reach out Ray thought. But looking back, since when did Alex ever reach out? He always knew Alex wasn't the type to play counselor. Alex was just there. He would stand by Ray's side and give the truth whether Ray wanted to hear it or not.
That was why Ray respected Alex and that respect formed the basis of their friendship. One made out of the firmest ground, battle-tested time and time again. They were more than friends, they were brothers. Maybe that was why it hurt so much, maybe that was why Ray had contempt in his heart.
But if there was ever a time for forgiving and forgetting, that time was now.
He crossed the half green, half barren lawn and knocked on the door. No answer. He knocked again figuring he would be waking Alex up. It is early for him after all. Ray waited several seconds before impatience took over. He knocked so hard that his knuckles ached. "Shit! Damn doors, made of wood..." With no response from inside, Ray walked to the west side of the house and began peering into windows. He was surprised to see everything had been trashed. The floors were covered with broken china, trash was scattered throughout the room, posters were pulled off the walls, cabinets were open. He felt his stomach sink, the same feeling that comes with fear. He had to choose between breaking down the door or walking away.
He ran back up to the front door, took several steps back and gave the door a flat-footed kick. Nothing but noise. "This is harder than it looks in movies," Ray said. He never had to kick a door down. He became mad at the futility in his efforts. That did the trick. It gave him the motivation to finally break the door. He kicked in a spot on the middle of the door and was able to reach inside a cracked panel and unlock the deadbolt.
It was cold, musty and dark, despite there being no curtains over the large windows. He looked around at dishes broken in corners of the kitchen, the empty containers of food and other pieces of undistinguishable plastics everywhere. Doodles were left hanging in their errant ways on the wall and it's pallid paint was unstained by blood or any other sign of a struggle. "A good sign." He opened the living room door and saw more devastation as the couch was flipped over and the TV was laying face down on the dirty carpet. Everything else was gone. Clothes, CDs, DVDs, books and personal items were all missing.
Ray stopped the frantic search. After reflecting for a few seconds, he noticed the house had a forlorn feeling. It was clear that no one had lived here for some time now. Maybe it was the furor over getting out and trying to escape the un-escapable that left the devastation. Maybe Alex just wanted to trash the place for the hell of it. Regardless, he was gone and was not coming back.
Now Ray had no idea what to do with his time. He had not planned on Alex not being at home. He was sad that he did not know how to contact one of the people he wanted to see, he couldn't say goodbye to someone that meant so much. It was if he were already dead.
That was when it finally hit home. Now he knew what the big deal was.
Melancholy settled over him like a damp blanket. He had whitewashed all of this for so long. He didn't properly give it its credit. Here, all these months, Ray thought he was above everyone by not crying or going into hysterics. When in fact, he was so socially backward that it took him this long just to catch up to how he should feel. The world was over. Done. There would be no tomorrow and there would be no way to set everything right with everyone.
It was infuriating as it was sad. He wanted to cry until there was no liquid left in him. He wanted to break things and rage until his muscles were too sore to move. He wanted to feel loved until his heart exploded. "Jesus," he muttered to himself. He finally understood. He could never, ever be with anyone but himself again.
This was horrifying to Ray. He was sure this was an episode of the "Twilight Zone." He had wallowed in his own misery and invested in himself so long that now he would be stuck that way when he desperately wanted to reach out. The irony. If Ray wasn't so scared, he would have laughed.
The cocktail of emotions swirling in Ray caused him to not act at all. He sat down on the edge of the porch and looked out over the neighborhood. "Any other day, any other time, there would be cars, people walking down the street, you could hear sounds. Now, it's just nothing. It' s like the world is already dead." No sooner had Ray said this than he cradled his head in his hands, running them over his shorn hair, rubbing his all-but-bald scalp.
His most recent epiphany, while defeatist, did give him the final push he needed to live out his day. He sat there, taking deep, long breaths. He told himself this was it. He could lay here on this porch and fret, and die. Or, he could actually live for the first time in almost a year. He could set things right and have a little peace before it was over. With the understanding that he would finally have to wrap-up all the loose ends in his life, Ray could get done what he needed to. No more procrastination, because there was no time to procrastinate anymore.
He pulled out his cell phone and looked at the time. "12:37. I've got to get out of here." He ran down the short steps and jumped in his car as quickly as he could. His breath was quick and his muscles taught. "But where to?" his mind raced. He had planned to spend a good bit of his day with Alex. "What was the backup plan?" Ray asked rhetorically.
He knew. He had always known. It was the one place he had wanted to go, but had managed to avoid. He put the car in gear without even thinking about it, getting anxious as he turned around in the seat to make sure there wasn't anyone on the road behind him. Then he scoffed. Of course there wouldn't be, they were probably climbing into their bomb shelters by now.
The sensation in Ray's gut was one he was very familiar with. It turned over and over and over again. There was a sense of dread settling over him. This was an aspect of himself he hated — his ability to do what needed to be done regardless of desire not to do it.
Ray always had the ability to stare down his internal trouble. He never ran, he always faced it in all of its ugly glory and tried to move on. He was just never sure if he could actually stare them down enough that he was able to eradicate them, but he could at least paint them into a corner and that was usually good enough for him.
Ray hated confrontation, but there was nothing else to do. It was time to put it all to bed, let everything in his head that would not stop chattering rest. This was definitely one that would not shut up. It plagued him for years, ever since they had formed their odd, rickety, narrow bond.
For so many people, he could push them away, forget about them or change his opinion of them. Why he could not get this one person out of his head was a question he wished he had an answer to. But Sarah had always commanded his attention. Her poise and grace struck him dumb. Her ability to be so open and incredibly remote was confusing. "Maybe that's it," Ray said. Was she was some puzzle he had to figure out? He did not know if it was just curiosity or something more.
All he knew was that in their run-ins at parties, grocery stores or for any other excuse he could conjure up, he had this connection, however small and fragile it might be. He knew it was a bond formed mainly by the distance between them — two people who kept their emotions so in check, two people who hid themselves from each other and could see it in each other.
Ray wanted more than anything to not be lonely anymore and he wanted the same for her. She deserved more and if he could alleviate that, it would be one worthy last deed.
He was familiar with being alone. Ray had always been a man apart, even from birth. He was left by himself at two and filled his days with imaginary situations and TV. He was dressing himself by 5 and making his own meals by 6. He learned to sustain himself by actual and imaginary means. He learned to be alone and pushed away a great deal of people who tried to alleviate this. He would rather do it himself.
This probably had something to do with why his girlfriend left him. He wanted to make it not his fault, he wanted to make it that she was a horrible person who had the intention to hurt him all along, but he couldn't construct a scenario where he was at least not partly to blame. He chose her and he chose wrongly and became too involved and then too distant. It wouldn't have worked, no matter how much he had loved her. He felt foolish for not seeing it sooner so he didn't have to complete this mission on the last day of his life. He felt cheated that he had made a wrong decision and only had hours to try and have some sort of positive impact on someone else's life.
Ray had always wanted that, to have a positive impact on one person's life. He knew that it didn't come from charity work or being a medical professional, he knew it was in the personal connection. And he was awful at personal connections, but he wanted to try. If two people deserved to be left with a gilded edge framing their lives, he felt it was him and Sarah.
"Now is not the time for self-reflection and psychological diagnosis. I have to do this. I need to make up for lost time, no more pushing away. I need this," Ray told himself in the car.
Ray found himself halfway across town by the time he came out of his zone. Sarah lived across town, in the nice neighborhood. She had the best security. It was going to be tough to get there without incident or being turned away. Ray even thought about parking in town and walking through the woods. As he crossed the main road in town, he could see some flaming debris up ahead on the horizon.
As Ray drove up to the wreckage, the horror of the scene unfolded. Cars lined up end to end formed a flaming barricade, national guard troops battled crazed residents armed with whatever they had in their backyards or at their feet. The peaceful nature of his final day had been ruined and was a clear obstacle impeding his last task.
Ray pulled a quick u-turn and sped away from the scene, cutting through back streets, but to no avail. Chaos was everywhere. It always took this town a while to catch up with the rest of the world. "Better late than never," Ray bitterly joked. As he ignored all safety and careened his little compact vehicle through the town to get around the battle raging between him and his destination, it became clear that all hell was breaking loose and there was no way he was going to be able to drive through it.
Ray sped up the highway to get to the edge of the troops. "," he said in that begrudging tone that signals equal parts resignation and frustration. He finally decided against driving. Pulling into the double-football field-sized parking lot of the local Wal-Mart, Ray noticed the looting he had predicted earlier that day. Had he not got this wild inclination that he could change his and someone else's world for the better, Ray would be sitting and watching this chaos with amusement.
Instead, it was a hindrance and Ray had no tolerance for it. He exited the car and took off at a slight jog back towards the insanity. In front of him, he could see troops with guns raised shouting warnings at a gathering of the townies approaching with assorted weaponry. The troops shouted another warning. Ray ducked into the ditch beside the highway. The troops fired and bullets tore through people who were once law abiding citizens, dropping them like rag dolls to the pavement. Ray cowered and covered his head, despite being behind the action. The troops advanced further down the caravan of abandoned cars and olive green transport trucks. Ray looked on in astonishment. He had seen it on TV a million times, but fiction never did real death any justice.
Ray slowly walked up to the five or so bodies sprawled on the concrete. They looked peaceful. Their limbs were at odd angles, ones that can't be formed by living people. He could see his own face in the blood pooling on the ashpault. Ray had never seen someone die before his eyes. It was odd to feel this upset when everyone would end up this way or worse in a matter of hours. More gunshots in the distance, yelling, muffled cries and some small explosions caused Ray to come back to reality.
He looked up ahead. "How am I going to ever make it through all this? It's not fair. Why now? Why me? Why this?" said Ray as he devolved into almost hysterical anger. He stood there and smoldered, ready to kill something himself. Then an image of Sarah formed in his mind and a strong feeling of caring washed over him. The conflicting emotions turned into urgency and Ray and decided to put his outrage to use. He took a second to gather himself. Moving away from the pile of bodies, Ray crouched down in the ditch again and looked across the road.
The woods that surrounded Sarah's house were not far away, maybe a quarter mile he figured. It would be the longest and most dangerous quarter mile he had ever traversed, "Nothing worth anything ever comes easy," said Ray. His hands dug into the soil and grass as he launched himself across the road. He clung to the side of an army vehicle and kept as low as possible. He knew that if he could just avoid a direct line of sight, he could make it to the woods and get around death's cacophony.
Ray moved quickly from one vehicle to the next, undistinguishable truck. He turned his head to the side and pressed it firmly up against the truck as bullets pinged off the side. Ray heard small arms fire echo out, undoubtedly from one of the local's dead aim. "Second amendment," said Ray. "Good thing my black humor's still intact...Even though I may not be," he though to himself.
The next vehicle was a bullet-riddled car a good 10 feet away. Ray got down almost parallel with the ground and took off as fast as possible. He tucked and rolled across the ground, moving over some broken glass and shell casings. He didn't have time to worry about a cut on his shoulder right now. He had to figure out his next move in this ever increasingly high stakes chess game. Ray peered over the hood of the car to see a man stab a guard with looked like a machete.
"JESUS!" Ray exclaimed. He ducked back down. The woods were just a little further ahead to his left.
Impatience reared its ugly head again as Ray stayed crouched down and began to move in that direction. Then, a troop dressed in dirty fatigues back-peddling and firing his M16 rifle moved behind the car with Ray. Ray's stomach droped. The troop stopped shooting and turned and looked directly at Ray. For a moment, it had to register and the two men stared at each other dumbstruck. Then the soldier's training kicked in to gear and he raised his rifle directly at Ray.
"You! Get up, NOW!" the unnamed soldier demanded.
"Okay, okay. Just take it easy. I don't have any weapons, I'm unar..."
"I didn't ask you anything. Keep your hands where I can see them!"
"Okay, you don't have to do this. I'm just..."
"SHUT THE FUCK UP!" said the soldier as he moved towards Ray with is gun still aimed squarely at Ray's chest.
The soldier had barely taken one step towards Ray when he was hit squarely in the upperbody by a shotgun blast. Blood sprayed Ray in the face and freckled his clothes. Ray shouted, arms still in the air, shaking as he stared in disbelief at the mangled remains of who may have been his executioner. Ray realized his hands were above his head and his mouth was wide open. He slowly lowered them and closed his mouth, but couldn't pull his eyes away from the horror movie prop.
Then, something snapped. Ray didn't care anymore. He wasn't sure if it was the divine intervention that had just saved his life or complete recklessness that cause this rush of invincibility, but safety was not in the cards anymore. He broke off in full sprint behind the soldiers, burnt out cars and transport vehicles. The adrenaline coursing through his veins gave him a definite edge as he jumped over rubble, bodies, dodged battling guard members and citizens and weaved in and out of the vehicles all at break neck speed. Ray did not stop despite the close muzzle fire, shouting and smoke. His eyes were never diverted from the space directly in front of him. He only knew the woods were near when he felt the heat from flames as he ran past the barricade.
Ray quickly planted his foot and cut across the grass and took off into the safety of overgrown hedges, trees and feet-thick piles of leaves. He ran as far as he could before exhaustion set in. He stopped, panting heavily, every muscle aching. He realized now that he hadn't eaten today. God he was hungry. He was tired and he was...scared. Ray dropped to his knees. He buried his head into his hands and wept. Part joy for being alive, part horror at what he had just escaped, Ray sat on the forest floor and cried.
After a few minutes, Ray wiped his eyes and moved his aching muscles into action again. He looked around and feared he had gotten himself lost. He was not a woodsman. Moss grows on the north side of trees was about the extent of his Boyscout training. He had to keep moving, though. It was all he had left. He stopped and could hear the chaos behind him, which meant that he had ran in a straight line and the road must be...To his right.
Ray stepped over downed trees, fought through briers and low-lying limbs as he made his path back to civilization. He finally could see the image of a road coming into focus like the picture of a TV coming into focus out of static. Ray smiled for the first time all day. He moved back into the open and knew that Sarah's neighborhood was not far away. With all danger separated from him by unpaved country, Ray took to the side of the road and walked alone beside the offshoot of the highway until he came up on the neighborhood where all the houses looked alike and the streets had similar names.
It had been a while since he had been to Sarah's house. "Let's see. I'm pretty sure it's the first house on the right of either the second or first street...I know she drives a white Chevy," Ray's thoughts trailed off. As he entered the neighborhood, most of the houses were undisturbed but abandoned. Ray got between the two streets and moved back to see if he could see Sarah's car. He could. It was the second street. Ray sprinted towards her house.
He stopped in her yard and looked at himself. His pants' legs had mud on them, his shoes were dirty with blood and nature, his hands were filthy, he was sweaty and was pretty sure he was bleeding himself. For the first time since he ran through the war zone, he wondered if he had been hit after all. "No use to worry about it now," he said as his better judgment caused him to check his back, legs and stomach. "Nothing. At least I won't bleed all over her carpet...Well, so much for making a good impression," he said while trying to dust himself off.
Ray walked up to the door. He had just escaped certain death, but this was what was making his legs tremble. "What the hell is wrong with me?" he said under his breath. He knocked on the door. No answer. "You've got to be kidding me." He knocked a second time. "Not again." Then he heard stirring inside.
The door opened and a huge knife came through the crack. "Oh shit! What the hell?! " Ray spouted as he jumped backwards. The door peeled back revealing a short, pale, red-haired woman with strong facial features and piercing green eyes. She stood in the doorway, defiant and ready to fight. This was the Sarah that Ray knew. "Oh! I'm sorry, I figured...Wait, Ray! What are you doing here? Come inside, come inside!" She grabbed Ray's arm and pulled him towards the house.
He moved in the foyer and she shut the door and locked several chains and deadbolts. She turned and stared at him with those eyes, bright with confusion and — could it be —delight? "I'm sorry, I know I showed up completely unannounced and unexpected but...Can I sit down?" Ray asked.
"Yes, of course. We can...Oh my God! What the heck happened!? You're covered in blood. And you're bleeding! Are you okay? You need help. I think I've got some gauze and ointment in my bathroom" Sarah said as she exited the hallway and went into an unseen portion of the house. Ray made his way into the living room. Sarah came back with medical supplies.
"Well, it's good to see you haven't changed."
"What do you mean?"
"Always trying to save everyone else."
"Well, somebody's got to take care of you right now. So are you going to tell me what happened while I look at your shoulder."
"Oh. It's probably from when it crawled over some broken glass."
"What were you doing crawling over broken glass, mister?"
"You wouldn't believe what I had to go through to get here," Ray said in the weariest voice that had ever issued from his vocal chords.
And he knew that it wasn't just the battle, his climb to her had gone on long before now.
Sarah stopped and stared at him for second as a huge smile came across her mouth. She didn't say anything and Ray didn't either. Their non-verbals said it all. Finally, Ray broke the silence.
"Just tell me where I'm bleeding and I'll dress it."
"Well, you're pretty messed up. You should probably shower first. I think there's some of my brother's old clothes in the other bedroom. I'm sure it won't be a perfect fit, but it's better than a bloody t-shirt and muddy jeans," Sarah assured Ray as he saw the horror of him tracking mud into her house spread across her face. It was then that he realized he had the soldier's blood splattered on his face.
"Okay. I'm going to assume that's it," Ray said as he pointed to the room where Sarah had just entered from.
"Yes. Towels are under the sink, farthest to the left."
Ray took a shower for the second time that day. He was sore and had gashes on his shoulder and upper back. The water stung the wounds, but it was good to finally have some feeling back in his body. He quickly washed off, removing the stench of death from him and toweled himself dry. Sarah knocked on the door. He stood behind it and cracked it only to have a shirt and pair of shorts quickly jut inside.
"Thank you very much," Ray said as he took them and shut the door back. He got dressed and took a second to look in the mirror in order to compose himself to probably have an awkward encounter with someone who was being incredibly kind to him.
He exited the steamy bathroom as Sarah sat curled up on her couch, staring at him.
"What?" Ray said with amusement.
Sarah shook her head and continued to stare at him. Did she know what was coming?
"Are you hungry?" Sarah asked.
Ray was minutes ago, but the uncertainty of what he was about to do mixed with the attraction he felt to this angel who was going completely out of her way for him made his stomach unusable.
"Not really," he sat down on the chair across from her. His tone caused her to raise her head and furrow her brow like she does when she knows that something serious is about to be said.
He began by telling her about crossing the barricade and everything that happened a very short time ago, although it now felt like ages ago. Her look of horror and disgust made him uncomfortable.
As he talked, Sarah got the gauze and began dressing his shoulder and back, even pulling tiny shards of glass from it. That didn't make him feel half as bad as what he was about to say next.
"You did all that, just to get here?"
"Yes," his voice trembled slightly. "To see you."
"Why would you do that?"
"Because...Well...I have to tell you something. And it's very difficult. Very, very difficult, but it's been a long time coming."
"Okay," she said assuredly and sat down across from him again.
"I feel something for you and I'm not sure what it is. I've felt it from the moment we met. It's never left, even after all these years. I can't get you out of my head and I don't know why. You're beautiful, strong, intelligent, funny, sweet, artistic and incredibly interesting. I ignored that and I waited too long. I bet on the wrong horse, per say, and now I've lost all this time, and the world's going to end..." The words gushed from him. All of it was from the heart, there was no filter and no rehearsal.
He stopped for a second and she stared at him expectantly. Ray took it as a sign to continue, "I have to tell you that I care about you deeply, even though it doesn't make sense for me to. We don't know each other very well, but I know we're lonely. And if I can make you not lonely, for the next few hours, if I can give you someone to be with for however long we have left, then I'll have done something to make me feel good about myself and make someone else happy. That's why I'm here."
Sarah sat there and cocked her head to the side. Then she straightened up and walked over to the chair. Without saying a word, she grabbed Ray in the tightest embrace he had ever felt. No hug had felt like this, except when his mom would grab him as a child.
She pulled back and stared at him, reading him. He was doing the same with her. Another smile came across her lips. It was infectious. Before he knew it, Ray looked like the Cheshire Cat as well. Sarah touched his face gently. Ray put his hand into her long, auburn hair and caressed her head. They moved together in one motion and their lips met in a union that had been repressed for way too long. They held that position for what felt like hours before each of them pulled away.
A moment passed before Sarah whispered, "I like you too."
Ray laughed hard. It had been a long time since he had really, truly laughed. "You're much more concise with words than I could ever be."
"It's because I'm awesome," Sarah said with her faux flippant attitude.
Ray laughed again. God bless this girl he though to himself. Now he really felt cheated for not being able to see this in her sooner.
"I've kept something for you for a long time too, but you were with someone and I just put a wall around it. I mean, I feel like I've known you my whole life. But I didn't expect for this to happen now. Especially since we're all about to die. But it's sweet that you would think of me at a time like this. I think that says something. But why aren't you with someone else, your family or friends?"
Ray sighed deeply. "I pushed them all away after everything that happened. It's my fault, but you were the only person I thought I could turn to, someone who would understand me and not judge me."
"Never. How could I? After everything you've been through? I'm a therapist sweetie. I understand when people are having a bad day and you were definitely having a bad day."
"That's an understatement. It's been a bad lifetime. Which brings me back to you. I get the feeling you've been through the same things I have. Which is why I think I was so attracted to you — a kindred spirit."
"You have no idea. I don't even have time to get to the tip of the iceberg with all the bad choices I've made."
Ray saw it was a little after 4 p.m. He turned back to Sarah. "I've got nothing but time. In fact, that's all I have left."
The pair spent the next few hours holding hands, catching up, discussing their likes and dislikes, cuddling, showing mental scars, talking about their favorite TV shows and music, joking around and figuring each other out.
Sarah fixed dinner with what she had left in her house. They two sat at the table and talked over homemade spaghetti. Ray's favorite. They talked about how if they had only been honest with themselves, they would have given what they had hidden between them a chance before now.
"I've been through so much that I just can't connect with a lot of people. You're the only person I've not wanted to throw out of my place after five minutes, in, I don't know how long. I wish we had done all this sooner. I think we would have made a great pair."
That last sentence hit Ray like a hot poker to the chest. It took that for Ray to understand his earlier proclamation that knowing you have something to lose would make everything worse was wrong. It's the only reason to keep going.
"If you don't have any plans, I'd like to stay. No pressure, just someone to be with when...Well, you know."
For the first time, Sarah looked sad. She stared at Ray and collected herself, "I can't think of a better person to spend the rest of my life with."
The choice of words were as humorous as they were tragic. They had found each other after years of being strangers to each other's hearts and it was all but too late.
The two finished dinner and imagined what a life would have been like after this moment: where they would have gone on dates, what they would have done together, how she would have made him watch her favorite movies and he would have made her mix CDs. But they knew it took a catastrophe to bring them together in the end. It was fitting.
As the sun went down and something too bright to be a star could plainly be seen in the night sky, the pair walked into Sarah's bedroom and got into her bed fully clothed. She nestled against Ray and he felt alive for the first time in almost a year. Her scent reinvigorated his consciousness and the heat coming from her body breathed life into his.
"So, this is what it's like to make a difference," Ray thought. He felt at peace. He hoped Sarah felt the same.
"Thank you," he said to Sarah.
"For what?"
"For being you."
She grabbed his hand and squeezed tightly. He put his arm across her back and gave her the biggest hug he could manage. He turned his head and looked at the bedside alarm clock. It was 8:42.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

It's raining. Again. It does that a lot here. The weather also loves to change temperatures radically and without warning. Kind of like a woman. Oooh snap, I totally burned females. But in all seriousness, it hits my window insanely and the only thing I have to listen to is YRock on XPN which is good about 75% of the time, but when it's bad, it's really annoying. So when I inevitably get bored, I take my headphones off and have to hear "TAP TAP TAP TAPTAPTAP TAP" repeatedly. And I'm not sure what's worse, that or stupid low-fi indie rock.

I want to see a bunch of movies. I hate being broke. There was about four movies I wanted to see, all at the same time back in December. I never saw them. Still haven't seen "The Watchmen" but I will at some point. Maybe I can just go chill by myself at the movies if I can ever get off work in time to not be forced to endure the 10 p.m. showing. I'm old. I go to bed early on weekdays. I need my 12 hours or else I am just worthless.

There's also a bunch of good music coming out this year. Or, music that I'm interested in hearing. Let's see, I think the 09 tentaive release dates exist for these artists: Green Day, Smashing Pumpkins, Deftones, Muse, Paramore, My Chemical Romance, Mastadon, Glassjaw, Coldplay and some others I can't think of. Honestly, I wouldn't hold my breath on about half of those. I've already heard the new Mastadon (fantastic), the Green Day has a release date and the new Deftones album is done. So I figure those will see the light of day. Others have just started or are in the process. And I don't expect to see a new Glassjaw record before the end of the decade.

In case you haven't heard, I've got a squatter. El Danegeroso is back and sleeping on my floor *Sigh* I guess it's my fault for helping out a friend, but he did install a new toliet seat in my bathroom and bought me a wok, so I can't complain too much. But it's been nice to not have only me in my shitty, cold apartment for the past few weeks. So there's that.

Whatever. The lunch hour is over and people can be contacted again. I need to stop pretending and actually work now, I guess. *Sigh again*