Reality is such an inconvenience. It’s a hill shaped like an elephant, colored white. Have you ever noticed how it seems to pull out in front of you the instant you’ve finally regained your momentum, how it demonstrates Newton’s First Law by lobbing its bowling ball squarely at your humble cue? Reality can be such a bummer, the rationalizations for your deviated trajectory so overused—not enough time, not enough money, not enough breaks, not enough talent—but always plenty of excuses worn thin from not enough fresh. Oh my God, they killed Kenny, your little voice screams as you shake the ragdoll of your calling until fluff spills from its ears. It’s no longer listening. No one is. Those bastards. But you keep trying to breathe life into it, even if what you’re attempting to resurrect hocks a loogie into your face. Some things are better left lying on Victor Frankenstein’s table, you think. But no, not this time. Not ever. Keep calm and carry on, they say. “If life is a bowl of cherries,” Erma Bombeck lamented, “what am I doing in the pits?” I’ve heard you can make liqueur from cherry pits. Hmm. …
Reality can be a psychopathic torturer of lucid dreams. Lucky dreams, those—at least you had the opportunity to carry them around with you, maybe for months, years, decades, gestating them, gesticulating, ingesting. Guessing. Always keeping you guessing. But isn’t that what it’s all about? Fantasy Island in real time, complete with Kool-Aid-colored cocktails in cone-shaped cups? Avoiding alliteration—and clichés—like the plague? Ha! You laugh, but have you ever wondered what’s behind curtain number one as you pull the rope to open number three? And so you persist—nay, you thrive—consider yourself lucky, even blessed, as once again you dump the grist into the grinder and turn the crank to blend life’s experiences into something someone—anyone—might want to sample.
I look around my office, at the swirl of sticky notes defining what I do—who I am—as if I have a clue about how to execute this dream that for four decades has so passionately wrapped its hands around my heart. And my throat. I didn’t ask for it: it just showed up, along with puberty, creativity, a sense of humor, and the sudden realization that my arms were too skinny. Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? Right? “Is there anybody in there?” Pink Floyd asked. “Just nod if you can hear me.” Because I’ve come this close to dying and I lived to tell about it—every moment of my existence has been lived to teach, instruct, share. With you. And share it gladly I do. Like Mr. Rogers implored, “Won’t you be my neighbor?” Gotta dig the red cardigan.
Please, won’t you listen? My sticky notes do. They start out blank, arranged in neat little piles, the same number of the same color in the same package, lined up just for me. They now parade across the front of my dusty in-box piled high with things to remember and even some things to forget, pink and yellow and orange squares, two-dimensional shouts cascading into three dimensions, even four, surrounding my mouse, calling. They overflow from my in-box and spew across my desk, angling toward me, a glacier of neon ideas resolutely inching toward my fingers, begging me to touch them, to manipulate them, to use them, to cast them into the world and see where they land. I’ve always said I have more ideas than I can use in a lifetime, but still they march in, and still I jot them down. Gotta get it where I can get it.
“Does anyone actually read books anymore?” one note whines as attention spans shrink, molded by the lightning strikes of flash-nonfiction scrolling across smart phones. “In Due Season” another one proclaims. Sure has been an awfully long season! I holler back. Snippets of Scripture, titles of essays, story ideas graze amongst the hopeful sheep lined up to throw themselves over the cliff, if only I lead them. They comfort me, nuzzle my shins, give me hope. They are my memory, my brain, my reminder that I am in the world but not of it. Thus I hold reality at bay with little more than the flat palm of tenaciousness pressed firmly against its insistent face. It growls. I growl back. Grr.
Reality is such an inconvenience. It’s a hill shaped like an elephant, colored white. As it collides with my avocation, I cringe but don’t shrink; I tighten my seatbelt and stare through the Plexiglas, waiting for the crash that may never come but one which I always survive. I’ve never cared for the sound of that collision, the subsonic boom of God’s calling plowing headlong into the world’s necessity. But, alas, this is our lot in this life. The squeal of my thin mettle being peeled back, the rush of bodies, the whoosh of air as reality clangs and whumps and snaps against the bulkheads of twisted dreams. …
I emerge then, from a silken cocoon, a wet, crinkled, formless thing that, only with a groan of unfairness, pumps its wings up under the heat lamp of domestication. But now, in this this great moment of “oh,” poetry has stepped in, pinching my wing spars and carrying me outside into the flood of sunlight. Sticky notes flutter around me as I perch on a folded purple coneflower. “Butterflies,” they shout.
Reality is once again subdued.
Copyright © 2015 David C Hughes