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Sunday
Dec162012

Even Now.

Tap-tap-tap.

Tap-tap-tap-tap-tap.

Henry taps on the window glass at the geese out by the stream. They can't hear him. They're pretty far off and plus they are probably thinking about geese stuff; who's got the stale bread, ya'll?

Inside the train it's Christmas lights and Dean Martin pretending he's tipsy as he bumbles through 'Jingle Bells' and the din of kids crying and laughing and peering up over the high refurbished seats to peer down at who's in back of them, or in front.

Tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap. He is hellbent on getting their attention anyway. He's almost two now, a little boy with a smile that creates real honest-to-God light when he flashes it, which is a lot. But on this old train car this morning his face is serious as he uses his binky to boink the glass steaming up with his gentle breath.

I watch him there, balanced beside me on his unsteady legs and I reach up and touch the skin on the back of his neck above his winter hood.

Tap-tap-tap. Methodically. Tap-tap-tap-tap-tap. Tapping his way out of this "Polar Express" train that I bought tickets for months ago. Santa will be there, I told my wife. And they play Christmas music on the P.A! She grunted her okay/I hit 'Pay Now' on the Pay-Pal/we became four future passengers together.

Tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap. He taps it like he doesn't want to break it, but his eyes upon the geese say he might do that if he knew it would bring them this way.

They are down there, though. They are down there in a different world and they can't know that a little boy is watching them and reaching out to pull them in.

Tap-tap-tap. He's like a ghost now, Henry is. A kid behind glass, tapping away to the world. Here I am. Are you coming?

The train buckles and starts to ooze.

"Have a holly jolly Christmas...I don't know if there'll be snow but have a cup of cheer."

Tap-tap-tap-tap. The geese slide away from us. A couple hundred miles to the north, the classrooms where it all went down are just like they were since the banging and the popping went quiet. No one has moved anything or anyone yet.

And if there's tapping, no one hears it.

Not yet, anyway.

------------------------------------------------------------

Lord knows I've tried. Hell, we've all tried. Nothing works though. In the morning on a Saturday just before Christmas you can mix in some apple butter with your oatmeal and listen to the coffee dripping down into the pot while your 40-year-old guts percolate last night's beers into another shit on the horizon but you are still just a weak fern of a bitch standing in the great northwoods.

CNN is on and I sit down in front of it and listen to them circle the wagons containing things they will never know.

I sip the coffee and it tastes okay, like coffee from some gas station somewhere, I guess. It's not Starbucks or anything. It's no Italian cup laid out before you on a cafe table in the shadow of a 600 year-old cathederal, but it ain't supposed to be because I'm 180 pounds of American weekend plopped down in front of a 40-inch Sony and so I reckon the brew fits the scene just fine.

We will ride the Polar Express today. Me and Violet and Henry and Monica. In the early morning, while it was still dark out, we all climbed on the big bed in mommy and daddy's room and watched the movie together. It was something that I had daydreamed about for more months than I should even admit. I wanted us to be fresh off the film when we climbed aboard the old trains the local railroad junkies bust out two or three times a year.

How cool would that be, I had reminded myself over and over again. How cool would that be to manage to watch the movie and then take the kids on a train ride?

Then, it just happened. It could have gone so wrong, too. Henry could have easily drifted off to put small toys in the toilet after a half-hour or so. Violet could have certainly gotten hungry and slid down off the high king mattress and announced that she wanted something to eat. One tiny monkeywrench and the whole thing could have just fallen apart in my hands like so many of my foolish plans, like soggy bread.

But somehow, it all came together.

The kids stared at the movie on the TV, their jaws slightly separated by the action and the elves and the runaway train skidding across the frozen lake a few miles from the North Pole.

My wife disappeared and then reappeared with a cup of coffee for me.

And that one tasted like God had brewed it himself.

-----------------------------------------------------------

The guns. The guns. The guns.

The guns are still out there, in someone else's hands now, probably destined to end up in a lab and then who knows where. You'd be a real asshole to want to fire any of them again, but I don't know where they end up really.

Who gets the guns that mow down 6-year-olds?

Do they melt them down?

Do they end up in a basement storage room with paper tags attached with thin wire?

What would the tags say anyway? Lanza? Sandy Ridge? Case 1677364?

Who fucking cares, right?

Who fucking gives a fuck, at this point.

-----------------------------------------------------------

What you remember when you are slipping away is anyone's guess. But even when it comes on fast there is probably something:

Your bat slamming the rubber tee under the baseball, the voices of your mom and dad mixed in with all the happy cheering back behind you somewhere, the sound of your small heart thumping so hard down inside of your bony chest, hot dog smell, a bird flying over centerfield, the ball rolling slowly across the bright green grass three feet in front of you, the interrupted baseline disappearing beneath your sneaks as you chug as hard as you can towards the five or six kids in Dodger blue all gathered around first base looking lost and desperate and confused and excited and trying to get you 'out' but not all that worried about it in the end.

The clumpy snow on your sled blades falling away as you brush it with your wet glove.

Santa Claus in the sky/he's really a plane/you will never ever know that.

Your mother's warm oniony breath as she situates you upon your pillow at the end of a long good day.

The chlorine in your eyes. The sting of happiness.

Your tiny brother in the doorway holding Winnie the Pooh.

Mint. Toothpaste. Burning life.

Legos all over the floor before you and your alphabet flash cards mixed in with them and the warmth of the room raining down from the bright lights above you sitting there in your pajamas with feet.

The dog you have always known.

Lying on your side, your eyes opening slowly, as you realize that it's morning now. And that it's your birthday.

Touching first base, feeling it under the balls of your feet, joy swelling up inside of you.

Safe!

Safe!

Safe!

Forever.

----------------------------------------------------------

I quit smoking two months ago for the second time in a year. You fall off the horse, you get back on, dude.

But I bought a pack this morning, just to taste them again.

It's unhealthy and I'm weak and I want to crush them in my fist.

But first, I need to smoke a few as I write this.

--------------------------------------------------------

What would I trade to keep you here by me forever, my love?

I would trade all of my veins. Miles of thin worms that keep me going, I would trade them all in a heartbeat to make it all okay for you.

I would trade every word I have ever said just so you could say one more.

That's how much I need you. That's how much I love you.

I would remove my guts with a teaspoon and carry them across the mountains to hang them from a tree overlooking the furthest sea if I knew that it would keep you smiling.

To hear your laughter, I would stand before the greatest army ever known and approach them across a summer field until a distant voice shouted halt and I would keep right on walking.

I have loved you so much for so long.

And I would give all of that up just to love you maybe a second or two more.

-------------------------------------------------------------

(Lighting a cigarette...hold on...there we go...I blow smoke in your face.)

In the days to come we will again talk of Earthly things.

We will once again hear these words/ it has already begun:

'Semi-automatic guns don't kill people. People kill people.'

But, c'mon.

(I blow so much smoke in your face that you can't even see or even breath.)

'Soldiers die protecting my right to own these assualt weapons.'

Who amongst us speaks for the dead, then?

'This is the greatest country on Earth and if you don't like it then leave!'

(I blow burning cities of smoke directly through your head and you are Buddy Holly's pilot/upside down in the snowy night sky/ or are you right side up?)

I love it too, you see. Maybe I love it more than you.

Is that possible?

Can you believe that?

The guns that forged our nation, the guns of our Second Amendment, the 'arms' we gave ourselves the 'right to keep and bear' were muskets. They were single shot shooters. But we have strayed way too far from that now. We have allowed ourselves to shatter the boundries again and again until what we are left with is a monster of our very own making in the form of rapid-fire death that no self-respecting Founding Father would have ever been proud of.

You were so sure you loved your country and that all of these guns proved it. But, like it or not, those days are over.

(I reach down through all of the smoke engulfing you and I take from you what I need to take from you in the name of love.)

You continue to live your life. Or you don't. There is no telling.

But your fucking rapid-fire child-killing machine is gone and the sun continues to set over your neighborhood with all of the majesty of Heaven here on Earth.

--------------------------------------------------------------------

Tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap.

The geese are behind us now as our train rolls slowly down the tracks. Henry taps his gentle greeting still, though.

He taps it at the five or six elderly train-spotters who have gathered at the edges of farm fields we are moving through.

They wave at him and he erupts in smiles.

Sleigh bells begin to ring!

Henry looks quickly and so does my daughter and there at the front of our car he appears.

"Ho-ho-ho!" It's him. It's him.

Santa Claus appears and the kids in the train begin hollering and crying and standing up on the seats to get a glimpse of him and the whole scene is chaotic in all of the right ways, in all of the most beautiful ways we can ever know in this life.

I put my sunglasses on fast.

I can't help it. I know I look like a douche, a sunglasses douche in a train car, but to be perfectly honest with you, man, I'm fucking crying.

I am so in love with them, with this. With life.

Brenda Lee comes on. They're piping her in.

"We're rocking around the Christmas tree/ have a happy hol-i-day!"

I'm so in love with life, even now.

Reader Comments (24)

Crying. Big, fat, drippy tears.
I am so grateful that someone like you (and Monica and Violet and Henry) exists.
Thank you.
Thank you for being some of the good ones.

December 16, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermr

You are such a fucking cunt for writing this, like this and now. Everything is always about you, or your spoils. You can buckle up those Bukowski boots of yours but everybody with a basic framework of true empathy can see right through you walking over the the same fucking steps in the cheap imitation you wear. This tragedy wasn't yours to dramatise and monetise. But hey, have this comment instead; i'm sure it's worth a whole pack of smokes you utter twunting shithorn.

December 16, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterareyouabraveman

Beautiful post, Serge.

December 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCetta

Serge, I have long loved your writing - for many reasons - you have such poetry and clarity in your words. You find the right words, when others cannot. The images you conveyed about childhood above, are simply beautiful. I actually looked over to Monica's blog and yours to see what you guys would be saying - I needed some kinship - to hear someone else speak - not just some devastated journalist.

And areyouabraveman - you are a complete and utter wanker - just go and troll somewhere else, because here - here is where we come to read a great writer, write. And we are grateful. Take your jealous ass and fuck off.

CMx

December 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCrummyMummy

Areyouabraveman...do you understand the irony of posting under an assumed name like areyouabraveman...because you are clearly neither brave nor much of an excuse for a man. You have also managed to, in just a few poorly constructed sentences, encompass everything that is wrong our society. Also, as someone who has read a lot of bukowski, I'd just love for you to give some examples of serge copping his style here.

December 16, 2012 | Unregistered Commentertom

That was really excessive of me and I apologise for insulting you. I was very emotional when I hit publish. I do not agree wih publishing this right now though - it was where you talk about what it would be like as you slip away. I imagine that would be distressing for a recently bereaved parent to read which they may do so.

December 16, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterareyouabraveman

Tom, i just posted an apology. Honestly I was very upset by other blogs I had read about the tragedy and this one tipped me off a bit into a foul mouthed rant. I do understand irony, just not how to control my temper apparently. As I said I had some issues with this post but more so with many others. I should not have.used here as my proverbial punching bag. And the bukowski thing - more a general reference to writers serge admires. I actually like the writing style here, but I do think it should have remained a private, reflective piece. Apologies again.

December 16, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterareyouabraveman

@areyouabraveman

I felt the exact opposite of you. While I would never presume to speak for someone who lost a child, although it made me cry, I thought the description of someone dying would be rather comforting to a parent. Flashes of baseball, family, love, sledding - all the epitome of the innocence of childhood as opposed to the horror of what was happening.

Also, while I respect your pain at what has unfolded you should also respect the pain of others. This is everyone's tragedy. Granted, we have no idea what it's like for those on the frontlines, it is their tragedy first and foremost, but I think Serge has beautifully honored the lives lost while raising a really important question facing America and your response was simply awful.

December 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJ

@ J My response to the original post? It was pure and mostly misplaced anger. Yes awful. I really hope I haven't offended Serge too much because it was a huge mistake to write such bile. Also I don't think this blog is monetised; that was another I was thinking of. I think the matter of whether it would bring comfort or upset to a parent is purely dependant on the parent itself. I know I would find this hard to swallow when trying to process such a thing.

December 16, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterareyouabraveman

i thought i commented here but maybe my words were swallowed by the ones that followed. i just wanted to say thank you for writing this, and for writing at all. this is a beautiful post.

December 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarian

this post rocked my world. i, like the above commenter, am sitting here with tears running down my face. you have an amazing ability to capture emotion.

December 16, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersara

Thank you Serge for posting this. Thank you Monica for posting the White House link. I'm so sorry you came under fire for this post Serge. I think many of us are grasping for anything to help us make sense of life right now, I know I certainly am. Thank you for providing a little thread to hold on to. Beautiful post.

December 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNicola C

Lovely. Serge didn't do anything wrong here. He's trying to help, not hurt. He's confused and in pain and holding on to his family and being thankful he has them. That's what I'm doing, too. Thank you, Serge, for writing this.

December 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJacqueline

Made my heart feel swollen with grief and love.

December 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlexandra

this is so absolutely beautiful. So sad, so intuitive, so beautiful. Thank you for writing it and for sharing it with us.

December 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDanni

Very true and beautiful in a moment of utter ugliness.

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSteph

This has made me feel like I'm not worthy enough to read it, because your ability to perfectly describe such deep thoughts and emotions through words takes away my ability to utter them (or in this case write them down). You're such a talented, beautiful writer. Thank you.

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMontse

This is beautiful, and it's what I needed to read right now.

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJanis

My son is now 31 years old and living three and half thousand miles away from me, but those words you wrote made me cry too because, no matter how old they get, you would still do all of those things if it meant they could live a moment longer. It's what being a parent means.

I hope some good can come out of this tragedy. I've said elsewhere that we are so lucky in the UK, not only for our mega-strict gun laws, but because our police also do not routinely carry guns. Guns are made for killing, whether that is for hunting animals or catching criminals. The less of them there are, the fewer tragedies like this can happen.

The most recent main changes to our gun laws, making them even stricter than they already were, was following a similar tragedy at a school in Dunblane, Scotland in 1996. I really hope this time at least a start can be made to taking the USA down that path.

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCaz

To 'Areyouabraveman' fuck you, you are a just another dumb ass and know noting about real love. You are alone, and always will be.

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCraig

this blending of vivid recollection/imagery with metaphor and abstract thought conveys real-time experience and honest conviction in a poetic/prose yada yada freestyle format. It is fully sensory and engaging and like Monica's, sometimes hilarious, other times heart wrenching and today, both, This post captured the essence of life itself, especially this particular Christmas. Warm and thoughtful, but also truly saddening due to the circumstances. Have you seen the movie"Tree of Life"? The post speaks for itself and captures your true Christmas daddy-heart. Polar Express is the best Christmas film ever. I am glad it all worked out and can appreciate your deeper implication that sadly in many lives today and everyday it does NOT work out peacefully and beautifully the way it was supposed to. Still we pray for peace when there is no justice and safer futures for everyone.

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered Commentergina

Your personal style, this blending of vivid recollection/imagery with metaphor and abstract thought conveys real-time experience and honest conviction in a poetic/prose yada yada freestyle format. It is fully sensory and engaging and like Monica's, sometimes hilarious, other times heart wrenching and today, both, This post captured the essence of life itself, especially this particular Christmas. Warm and thoughtful, but also truly saddening due to the circumstances. Have you seen the movie"Tree of Life"? The post speaks for itself and captures your true Christmas daddy-heart. Polar Express is the best Christmas film ever. I am glad it all worked out and can appreciate your deeper implication that sadly in many lives today and everyday it does NOT work out peacefully and beautifully the way it was supposed to. Still we pray for peace when there is no justice and safer futures for everyone.

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered Commentergina

Hey Serge - I tried to comment before and it never appeared. I love this post because it conveys everything we want to say, everything we feel and yet are unable to find the words. You found them. I popped over here because I wanted to hear how you and Monica were feeling about this tragedy - not more insatiable news journos spouting forth. I wanted some kinship, someone to express what I could not. So thanks for that.

CMx

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCrummyMummy

oh, boy...
beautiful post, serge...
but partisanship - like guns, anger or cigarettes - seldom (?) truly helps...

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterfahrenheit

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