Another old poem that I had written while I was going to CSU. I think it’s time I started writing some new stuff. I’m curious to see how much my perspective has changed in the last 6 years.
A Why Can’t I Poem
Why can’t I write a happy poem/ A happy go lucky poem/ I want to get up and dance poem/ A singing in the rain poem/ An everything is going to be alright poem/ Instead/ My mind spews dark/ Foreboding poems/ Brooding poems/ wrathful poems/ You let me down poems/ Got betrayed yet again poems/ I’m finally walking away poems/ What I wouldn’t do/ For a/ I want to have a family poem/ A future perfect poem/ I’ll be there for you poem/ Better yet/ You’ll be there for me poem/ A/ Look at me/ I’m smiling/ And not just to hide the pain poem/ An I believe in my self/ Poem/ The world is a better place poem/ Don’t cry dry your eye/ Here comes your mama/ With those two little guys poem/ It’s good to be alive poem/ But shit/ Who am I kidding/ Shit ain’t ever coming easy for me/ That’s my non-to-consequential destiny/ All I will ever conjure up are/ I don’t need you poems/ I don’t like me poems/ God have mercy on our souls poems/ I feel numb poems/ The good times are killing me poems/ There’s nothing left to say poems/ Damn/I think I’m done writing poems/
I have never thought of myself as hopeless romantic. I don’t think that I fit that billing. I may have some romantic tendencies or leanings, but I would not claim that I was the kind of fool that believes in love above all manner of reason. Perhaps I’m a bit too jaded to think that way. Damaged goods, such as myself, are too bruised up to achieve that level of romanticism. To be a hopeless romantic I think its necessary to have a level of naivete that can only come from the comforts of a relatively sheltered life. It requires a certain amount of suspension of disbelief. To trust in the inherent good nature of your fellow man. And you have to genuinely believe that when you meet that someone that makes your little cynical heart skip a beat, that they will forgo their own sense of self preservation, and dedicate their entire existence to you; just because they see something in you that goes beyond anything you ever saw in yourself. I’ve met many wonderful souls in my life. People that are good natured, hard working, loving, and compassionate folks. The proverbial salt of the earth. Yet in the 35 years that I’ve been flying on Spaceship Earth, I’ve only known one person that have ever looked me straight in the eye and made me feel like they had forgone their own sense of self preservation because they thought I was worth it.
When the future wifey and I started talking on the phone over a decade ago it felt like the entire world had come to a complete stop. Nothing else mattered. I didn’t care about current events. There was no war on terror. There was nothing going on in the realm of pop culture that was remotely more interesting than what the wifey had to say. Hundreds of hours were spent on the phone just yapping away. My brother would sometimes leave for work early in the afternoon and would come back several hours later only to find me in the same position still talking with her. We would call each other every night, right before we would go to sleep, just because we wanted to make sure that the last thing we heard that night would be each others voice. Jess would often fall asleep while on the phone, and I would whisper to her good night. She would then wake up and plead that she was still awake and not to hang up. We spoke 9 hours in a row once. We shared so many great laughs. We shared so many painful memories. It was if we had been ignored by the world all of our lives and now all of a sudden we had found someone in each other that wanted to hear what we had to say. And now we couldn’t shut up.
I couldn’t get enough of Jess. Every conversation made me yearn for her all the more. And knowing that she was 805 miles away ( I know this because I had Mapquested it) just amplified the feeling all the more. Naturally the more we spoke the more comfortable I felt opening up about my family and its rough past. I remeber sharing with the wifey some of the painful experiences I had gone through with my father. About the drug addiction, the arguments, the ugly confrontations, plus the occasional humiliations. It was not at all out of character to hear Jess sniffeling and blowing her nose after recounting some of my personal horror stories. She never quite knew what to say. That’s never been her forte. But she would always say in the saddest voice that she could muster, with what I often pictured being tears streaming down from her beautiful face, how sorry she was that I had to go through that. I would laugh it off and say that it was no big woop. Just something that happened. That I was a big boy and that it no longer phased me. Off course I was lying.
But I didn’t share just sad stories. I would also tell her about some of my fondest memories about my father and mother and the rest of my siblings. Pleasant memories that ebduced big fat smiles on my face. Memories that I had not bothered to think about for years because I had grown so comfortable focusing on the bad ones. Jess enjoyed my happy tales. Especially the ones that dealt about my misadventures as a kid. Like the time when I was 12 years old, and I punched my dad so hard in the groin, after one of our wrestling matches, that my dad had to get one of his doctor friends to do a house call and check on his badly bruised family jewels. He wasn’t able to go to work let alone walk straight for about a week.
She laughed at my ridiculous stories. I think that was when Jess started to hear something in my voice, something that I either had not realized was there or that I had chosen to ignore. She heard the affection that I still had for my dad. I recall the wifey asking me, “You still love him don’t you?” I guess I did.
Don’t you think it’s time you forgave him?” she once asked. I forgave him a long time ago I told her. I just rather not deal with him, that’s all. “I don’t know Tom. I think enough time has passed for you two to make nice.” I would tell her, “look luv I get why you would say that. And I appreciate what you are trying to do here. But you don’t know my dad. He will find a way to fuck things up. And I honestly rather not have to deal with it. It’s not worth it. Some people can’t be helped. My dad will just find someway to screw me over. I rather not have to deal with another let down”. That was really my reason. It is madness to go through the same song and dance number time and time again and to somehow expect different results.
But Jess would not be so easily swayed. She felt deep down in her heart that if I made peace with my dad that it would all somehow work out. Perhaps she sensed that I secretly wanted to make amends with the old man after 3 years of silence. Or perhaps she just felt that if she managed to get my dad and I back together it would make her feel really good about herself. Whatever her reasons where she made sure to insist that I reconsider my stance.
If anyone had suggested something as hopeless as me and my dad making peace, I would have laughed right in front of their face. I knew the man. I knew his nature. I knew I couldn’t trust him. Not because he was evil man beyond redemption. But because he was sick. And sick people can’t help themselves sometimes. But I ignored my own sense of self preservation. I allowed myself to suspend disbelief. I threw out 23 years of personal experience. And allowed myself to trust in the inherent goodness of my fellow man. All because of her. I wanted to believe what she believed. I wanted to make her happy. And by making her happy I would be making myself happy. And who knew. Maybe this time things would actually work out for the best. Maybe it was time for me and my dad to bury the hatchet. Maybe we could let go of the past and start a new. Yeah, maybe, just maybe this might be good for me.
On a warm sunny day in July of 2002 I saw my dad coming up the block with my sister. He was dropping my sister off after a weekend visit. I went downstairs and met them at the door. My dad was somewhat surprised to see me standing there. I smiled and asked him if he wanted to come upstairs for a bit. He hesitated. I think he was wondering if I was going to ambush him in someway. I smiled some more. I assured him that it was ok. That I wanted to speak with him. My dad nodded and followed my sister and I up the stairs. It had been 3 years since I had last uttered a word to the man. You would think that we would have had a books worth of material to talk about. But oddly enough we were both not quite sure what to say next. After a few minutes worth of awkward small talk I grew the cojones to tell my dad why I had invited him up. I told him I was ready to let go of the past. That I was sorry for the way I had treated him the last time we had been in the same room. That I was ashamed that I got so out of control and that I had pushed him. I also told him that I forgave him for everything that happened. That I knew he wasn’t a bad man. That things sometimes we allow life to get messed up. And that I was willing to let it all go and make a brand new start if he was willing to do the same. My dad smiled. He told me there are things that I will not understand until I am a father, but that he would love me and always be there for me for as long as he lived. We hugged that day. We tried to do our best to let go off all the baggage that we both carried. It wasn’t so easy. There were times when I could hear hints of anger in both our voices when we we talked about specific events. But we were able to keep our cool. Anytime one of us got a little heated we were able to defuse the situation by either changing the subject or taking a nice deep breath.
It felt good talking with my dad again. For a split second I imagined that maybe, just maybe things would be different. I remember thinking how wonderful life was. I had this great girl in my life that was crazy about me. And my dad was back in my life. Everything was falling into place. I was allowing myself to breath again. For the first time in years I was feeling optimistic about the future. And I had the wifey to thank for it all. I called her up that night and told her what I had done. That I had spoken to my dad just like she had suggested. And that surprisingly it all turned out pretty well. I even told her that my dad and I had agreed to go see a movie together. There was a new Tom Hanks. It was called Road to Perdition. It was a gangster flick. It looked cool. He had seen the commercial and wanted to see it too. So we were going to catch it the following weekend. Jess was so happy for me. She couldn’t help herself and kept saying “I told ou so. I knew it would work out.” I smiled. Yeah maybe it would.
To be Continued: Sweet Home Chicago: Part V – On the Road to Perdition
I wrote this poem in 2006, 5 years after the events of 9/11. On 9/12/2001 I tried to get as close to ground zero as was permitted at the time. I can’t remember how far south I got before I hit the police barricades; but I knew it was somewhere between West 4th and Canal street. There were hundred of us out there. We were all just standing around; I’m not sure why I was down there. Not sure anyone else knew why they were there either. I looked south and could see the giant plume of smoke that was coming from the where the Twin Towers stood just a day earlier. I remember there was this middle age Cuban gentleman standing next to me. He turned to me and said in Spanish, ‘You see all these white people thought we were the bad ones (meaning Latinos) but it was those fucking Arabs that they had to worry about all along”. It took me a second to register what the gentleman had said to me. I should have told him that this was neither the time nor the place for ignorant, racist, bullshit. But I didn’t say a word. I just nodded my head and went back to looking at the plume of smoke. A few minutes later a fire truck came through the police barricade that stopped us from getting any closer. The cherry red truck was blanketed with this pale soot. The folks around me began to clap and cheer the fire fighters as they drove by. But those first responders they were somewhere else. They never bothered to acknowledge us. They just looked straight ahead and drove passed us.
There was a surreal element to that day. It has stayed with me all these years. Probably always will. That’s what inspired the poem below.
The minutes were counting down at an almost snail-like pace. My gaze switched obsessively between watching the time on my digital clock and the cheap land line phone that I had resting on my computer table. I was a nervous wreck. I could feel my heart racing. I tried to talk smack to myself; much like my friends and I would do when we would go to the courts and get a few games of hoops in during them hot NYC summer nights. I remember yelling at myself in my noggin, “C’mon you fat fuck get your shit together. It ain’t no big deal son. Why you sweatin’ it? You got this! You hear me you got this!” But my attempts of psyching myself out fell flat on its face. No matter what I told myself I just wasn’t buying it. The enormity of the moment was hitting me, as if fate was whispering into my ear what was at stake.
I was sitting at the edge of my bed. It was 6:15 PM Eastern Standard Time, and it was 5:30 PM Chicago. Jessica, the girl who I had been chatting with through Migente messages, and hour-long chat sessions on AIM, would be arriving home soon from school. In 15 minutes I was scheduled to call her up for the first time. I had been staring at the phone and the clock anxiously for the past hour and a half. I couldn’t figure out why I was so nervous. It wasn’t like I hadn’t chatted with any other girls in the previous four months. But Jessica for whatever reason felt different. I couldn’t grasp why it was different. I just knew it was.
It had been about a month and a half since Delunatic, the username Jessica went by on Migente, had left her Rockin’ mark on my page. I had done what was customary at the time, which was to return the favor by signing her guest book. While I was there I glanced through her page to familiarize myself with the future wifet. In her profile pic she was standing on the front lawn of her parents house. She was standing there with her younger sister and they were doing their damndest to look like a pair of rock loving, quasi emo, punk rockers. Now I recall that in the picture Jessica wore a white t-shirt with another black long sleeve t underneath. Now the wifey argues that she was actually wearing a black, short sleeve, Good Charlotte t-shirt, over a black long sleeve t. But I’m pretty sure that I am right in my account. She also wore a pair of black jeans with a long metal key chain hanging from her pocket. She had a pair of black, platform, Frankenstein’s monster, ass kicking boots. She disguised her long curly hair by parting it straight down the middle and tying it in a tight bun in the back. Her head was slightly bowed and there was a hint to a small nervous smile. Her body was what us urban folk like to call thick. She had curves in all the right places. I was an instant fan.
I read through the long list of bands that she herself had listed on her page. She was big on Nu Metal at the time. There were names like ILL NINO, Korn, None Point on her list. I couldn’t say that I was a huge fan of any of those bands. But It was nice to meet another latino that did enjoy rock music, even if their taste in rock was nowhere as refined or as tasteful as my own.
I sent her a private message complimenting her on her musical taste. I was just trying to fish for a bit of conversation. Something that I did regularly. Most messages went unanswered or I would get a response that didn’t leave me an opening to send a follow-up message. But every now and then I would get a reply back that allowed me to start a correspondence. Jessica turned out to be one of those instances.
We had spent the past month and a half just sending each other random notes or chatting about our like and dislikes. We talked about our family and about our friends. We spent a ridiculous time talking about music and movies and the things that moved us. We also spent some time talking about our cultural differences. I was Nuyorican, she was Chicana. We may share the same language but that was about where the similarities ended. Our foods, traditions, history where so different from each other that I couldn’t help but be fascinated by it all.
During one of our chats she had mentioned that I had spoken to some girl on the phone. She had inquire if I spoke to a lot of women. I told her I didn’t. That I made it a case of personal policy not to ask for a chicks number because I wasn’t about that. Off course I was full of shit. All I wanted to do was talk with women. But I was trying to seem nonchalant. Off course the only thing I accomplished by saying that was delaying our chance to talk over the phone.
Yet I truly believe that the delay of our eventual phone conversation was the key to allowing our future romance to bloom. We got to know each other on a level that wouldn’t have never been possible otherwise. The major drawback with chat and note conversations is that they are best served when you are having short Q & A sessions. You can’t really get to in-depth with all the details or it gets way too tedious to read through it all. So I started writing long email to her, which served as more appropriate format if I wanted to go into details about what we talked about. Jessica followed suit.
I really started to look forward to getting an email back from her. I remember reading through them and laughing hard about the silly stories that she told me about herself. My letters were a bit darker, but it had its own tinge of dark humor that I think attracted her. I miss those days sometimes. It’s been so many years later and we both are securely living under the same roof. Sometimes I think we take each others presence for granted. But back then we couldn’t get enough of each other.
The digital clock read 6:30 pm. The time that I had both been anticipating and dreading had arrived. I was going to go straight for the phone and dial her number. But I stopped myself. No way big man. Hold the fuck up! If you call at exactly 6:30 pm on the dot, she will probably think that you had been sitting by the phone waiting to call her. And although that is exactly what I had been doing, it did not mean that I wanted her to get that impression. No. I needed to play it cool. I was going to give it another 15 more minutes. Then I would call. We don’t want to appear too eager. Yeah that was the way to go. So I waited. The seconds dragged on for hours. It seriously felt like I was stuck in some type of time bubble. Where the passage of time moved at a much slower pace than it did outside the bubble. I blamed my heart. It was beating close to the speed of light. And anyone that knows anything about space and time knows that time slows down the closer you get to the speed of light.
It was finally 6:45 pm. I picked up the receiver. I dialed 9 out of the 10 digits needed to make the call. My finger hovered over the last number. My heart was beating so quick. Don’t fuck this up fat boy. You hear me! Don’t fuck this up! It was then that I realized that this wasn’t the usual case of butterflies in the stomach. I was feeling something else. I think I like this girl. Which in my day meant that you were a few steps away from being in love. Shit, I hadn’t even heard the girl’s voice yet and I was liking her hard. I was fucked.
I took a deep breath and allowed my paw to press down on the final digit. I heard the beep go off loudly on the receiver; followed by a number of rings. A part of me wished that she didn’t pick up. I think the phone rang 5 times and then a voice came on. “Hello”, said the female voice on the other end of the line. I asked in the deepest most manly voice that my 6’1 400 and something pound frame could muster, “Yes — hi is Jessica home?”. The voice answered by saying, “This is Jessica.” The moment of truth had arrived. I had no idea how this was going to go. “Hi Jess, it’s Tom. Calling you as promised.” I remember there being a slight pause of dead air. I’m sure that it didn’t take as long to actually get a response back as I actually remember it. But at that time it felt like it took forever for the future wifey to say something in return. She finally opened her mouth and said “Well so much for not being the kind of guys that ask for numbers and calls girls up.”
Fucking chick was busting my balls. Yeah, I really, really liked her at that moment. All that anxiety that I was feeling just a few instances prior evaporated rather quickly. We were about to hit it off beautifully. I just had lacked the imagination to realize how good it was all going to go.
To Be Continued: Sweet Home Chicago Part IV- Family Reunion