“Here Nor There” by Travis Howard

Here again, as I gather to some semblance of cohesion my sore limbs and with concentrated effort scrape myself spatula-like out of the bed.  Good Morning.  It almost done I consider with sober lack of expectation what I’ll make of it.  The morning or myself?  Scramble them both, they’re done for.  But I regenerate tomorrow.  It’s all as well — another morning dishes itself up like clockwork and hey don’t I get my fair chance to meet it that much readier every day?  If I can maintain.

Went to the woods again after work.  What a contrast.  God, why do I feel like I can’t even function?  Here nor there.  It’s like I escape with my life and, cradling it preciously, make for isolation only to find it displaced in my confused flight.

Woods again.  Thank Beauty.  Even if I don’t find myself, I still can see.  Some greens never fail.  Some clouds still wander with allure, and like poets in lyric retreat, I breathe again.

Sitting with a tallcan of Steel Reserve sure, and the mosquitos worse than managers, but breathing.

I used to escape so easily.  It was as natural as the unguessed destinations I found.  Then there weren’t the responsibilities of course.  It was a simple joy and instinct to go to the woods.  I’d refresh my senses and appreciate some independence from society’s commercial reality.  The woods were an exciting offering, a constant lovely oppurtunity that amplified civilization’s shortcomings…

Now I seek in need, in desperation, and find myself thwarted.  I came here too quickly.  I shut my eyes and ran for some transcendent relocation, some cure to wind me back together, some key that would settle in filling the space between me and my disassociated worklife.

I know I’m dramatic.  I can’t help it, or I won’t.  I cling to something fiercely.  I treat things like they’re serious.  It’s like I take my joys and dreams so seriously.  It’s practically grave.  I kick hard and hatefully at them threatened.  I can’t talk about it.  Complaining, that’s not attractive.  I know how much I have is huge.  Relatively, I thrive!  But that doesn’t put me off the vision.  Doesn’t put me off imagination.  When you’ve imagined what might be… built it in your heart with meticulous care, checked it against reality and felt it sturdy enough to climb toward… how can you stop?  How can you unsee, how forget?

It’s just there’s places one can have been, one can go, lives people get, windows into visions, truths and traumas, that knowing, seeing, going to… become an automatic exile.  Some people come from them, right off, born into the place that’s not allowed.  Some travel between worlds well, translating between, bridging gaps, perhaps inching forward society’s understanding… but most don’t get that ticket…  Agh its a bloody mess, I can’t say anything.

At the coffee shop today waiting by the bathroom I saw a flyer for a local writing contest.  Really open guidelines, any medium, only for local workers paid less than so given much.  So little.  And money on the table.  It looked at me with something like the evil-tinted glimmer of gold, or like some pet up for adoption I might’ve always dreamed of, but now can only look at with wearied irony.  Am I really going to have to pick you up?  Couldn’t be more apt, right on the nose!  I simply must.  Now I owe it to my yet-excitable and less-rusty self to act.

Can I write though?  I mean, can I write any more than this?  This rote record of trudged through mornings, exhausted evenings and the vain complaints against it all I’m too embarassed to find vent or willing ears for?  Chin up pup.  Well I’m going to make something like an honest effort, at least.  Hold myself to that much.

Actually feeling proud of myself today.  I didn’t get stressed out all day.  Last night two co-workers were over late, and after some serious cases of the postwork sit-downs, one of them pulled some Marx off the shelf, Wage Labour and Capital.  My friend described it as Capital, the sparknotes.  We read some chapters passing it around.  We got all into labor power, and the kind of commodity, in form of labor capacity the worker trades for pay…  It got me thinking a lot, and the point is at work I just put this very deliberate ‘meter’ on my ‘labor power’.  I was like the fucking Terminator.  In slo-mo. $10/hour speed.  I droned along at a setting, as careful kept as business owner’s expense accounts.  There were some times it didn’t work.  I couldn’t hold the pace, there was just too much work.  But I didn’t stress.  It helped a lot.

End of my shift the nightboss asked me, actual tremors of desperation and appeal performing across their face, if I could come in tomorrow morning.  They knew they needed this 12 hours ago, they knew they needed it a week ago.  I covered the same shift last week.  They do nothing about it then hold off til the last second to ask like it were a crisis.  I caved.  You always think about your co-workers.

Slept in for the shift.  Hungover as hell and sure I was looking it when I came in elevensomething, not ten.  Someone was already there doing what I’d come in for, though I didn’t recognize them.  A tempworker.  Just call the agency, they send someone along in a snap.  You can put em on whatever.  $10/hour.  So I got disciplined and sent home.

Remember; every time you come in when you should be off, on a favor or whatever (it’s always a favor, sympathy and solidarity, or payback for the time you needed it— never the money that appeals.  It’s funny this ammount we concede to, working away our energy day after day to lump together an eventual sum covering the basic support and maintenance of life….when looked at in the off-hours, held up as an incentive, a single opportunity….it holds no appeal, and appears rather like a mean joke.  We’re willing to do it on the long term, where it adds up to our survival.  Looked at in focus, from the workers instinctive bargaining perspective, it’s a pittance.  What my time?  In exchange for that? The next eight hours’ installment in a position of constant task and expectation with your only freedom in thoughts, tied by context to a simple trapped annoyance or a circular and intimate analysis of exactly all the ways this job is fucked.  What i tread over anyhow. Stupid.)… yes well the point is, remember when you come in on that favor, they’ve got you and your held to all the scrutiny and demand they always pin you under.  Might just lose your job on that favor.

Don’t try and write at work.  Funny ‘at’s the only time I feel like it anymore.  All the possibilities come boiling up just then expressly when I cant.  The excited will to actually try seems suddenly ripe.  That special energy of wanting to begin… nothing seems more valuable… as it fritters delicately for survival in the tiring and contracted mind.

Why couldn’t I have felt this at eight this morning?  Yes then all I felt was my back, my sore shoulders going through the coffeemaking motions, throwing back a pair of generic tylenol.

Okay got my idea for submission.  Had a nice diverting brainstorm as I whiled away the work.  I should do this more.

I’m going to write a short story that doesn’t quite let on its setting.  We start in a coffee shop, following the idle thoughts and motions of a regular.  They are most relaxed.  They consider the possibilities.  They rifle through the friends places projects they may visit.  Every option seems utterly possible to this curious unparcelled breezy loafer.  In the casual movement through their day a different sort of world, an alternative future, worked out and layered in details as though it were just so natural, is revealed.  Tantalizingly revealed.  I want the reader to see, to see it materialized and working, and to want it, want it badly.

That sort of seeing when people witness some form of even modest resistence triumph, or get swept up in a demo that was really lit, or how participants in Paris strikes and communes had to feel when for some brief hour the old customs and constructs quaked and shook weightily into a baffled silence, the ground remained firm, people took gladly to whatever work was needed, and it was seen for a moment just how things might look.  What— not hopes— more like dreams and exultations might enter collective hearts to be felt and shared in large.

That’s how i’d like my story to come off.  If you could make someone feel that… no see it…

I don’t think I’m gonna get that entry in on time.  I’ll regenerate tomorrow.  I’ll have more chances.