субота, 23 березня 2019 р.

Jeremy Hight - Gerald prefers it this way


Jeremy Hight is a professor of English and Creative Writing and is proud to have a text and image work in the Whitney Museum. He writes prose, poetry and critical theory and lives with his loving wife Lisa in Los Angeles




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Gerald prefers it this way


He hits a slight bump as another small street blooming with flowers and smells spills past.  There is the yard even others in this neighborhood are jealous of coming soon.  He feels the anticipation rising with each moment.  He looks up now and there is an impossible low cloud breaking in all directions. It is like a fog shorn to individual winged elements through streets, above the road, past yards and walls.  It seems almost like some bit of sky is moving, is alive, is breaking.

His older car is now covered in butterflies, the pieces of the seeming cloud, he slows and stops at the curb under a great old shade tree to give them rest.  He thinks for a moment of a book he once read that spoke of ships in great Atlantic hurricanes emerging suddenly after hours of waves and squalls to calm bejeweled by insects.

Gerald is 21 years stacked together.  He is 6-2.  He is a shirt and pants and shoes.  He is a scar on fingertip from cutting melons as a child.  He is that ambition and dream.  He is that award when he was a child.  He is that perfect score on a test.  He is the cross-pollination of flowers but in interests and curiosity.  He is skin, skeleton and the rest.  He now sits in shadow under a tree almost ten times his age.

Gerald went away to college on a scholarship with parents and relatives waving as he drove away.  It was idyllic.  It was perfect.  They even had balloons.   His grandma made a cake and a banner.  He was the first to go to college and that scholarship even had made the local news.  They had a huge breakfast party at his parents’ house before he headed off.  It was eggs and bacon and toast and waffles and pancakes and juices and fruits and hash browns and sausage.  He drove away like the end of a film. Jubilant.  Triumphant.

The butterflies still are across the sky, moving south to north and all kinds of low swirls.  His old Honda is is painted with them too in this moment.  It has thousands of beating wings skinning its semi faded paint and dents.  They have come all the way from somewhere far south.  The news last night said they were heading to somewhere north.  The snows await them soon though as does the early spring chill.  Gerald sits now and it is almost as though his heap could float away, somewhere, even just for a few seconds.  The thought is of course impossible and exhilarating.

The temperature outside is perfect.  The cold of winter here has bled clean away. The bitter dry heat of summer sleeps months away from this.  The scent arises now of yet another breakfast. It is pancakes and potatoes, of juice and of syrup.  Gerald turns and it is odd as there is no house near this corner.  There is not one for a block or more.  It is as though the food is being prepared beside him now, as though frying up fresh in the air by his slightly bent passenger door. It to his nose anyway.  It is a ghost.

The air is still now.  There is no wind or rain or cold or dust blown across the valley.  Many photographs will surely be taken.  A famer’s market a few blocks away is buzzing with life.  The park is painted colors with games and a school pancake give away.  A church plays organ that rides the air.   A distant train faintly hums and clanks.  Across town a few wedding clang bells or vows on this perfect day.  A single light cloud sits contentedly in atmosphere, gentle banal friendly frail cumulus to all alive below.

Gerald a month ago watched a spider in this car.  It was a cold night and it seemed as though he suddenly just emerged on a hilltop windy snake narrow road.  He watched it in the cold make a web strand by strand.  Architecture from its abdomen.  A home strand by single strand.  He sat in the dark marveling for what seemed 20 hours and a minute in time, short and long, mesmerized not bored, a birthing on a cold dead old road. 

Gerald left to waving hands and a banner.  That perfect moment.  Then he drove for 8 hours, got lost, scraped his tire, almost hit a pole and worse of all arrived.  He got to college and things simply were.  Then the things happened.

The butterflies begin to lift now, flutter, colors leaping orange and black from his car’s dull red.  The breakfast smell is even stronger now as they leave, bacon, sausage, grapefruit, olives, wine, beer, oysters even. 

Oysters.  Who eats them for breakfast?  I read once in a class that it was done by some before the cities were built, when towns came and went.  But I smell it so strongly now.
His car soon will simply be itself again.  People after a few days are getting used to these butterflies, these traveling visitors.  Soon enough they will be gone to other miles and roads and towns.  Gerald watches them begin to leave as if by some shared message and for a moment the sun seems to dim a bit, the old tree a bit more cragged, the road cracks yawning open some tiny increment.  He feels a tug inside, the old familiar.

The thing about history is it seeps in tiny increments.  Present leaks.  Nothing lasts.
Gerald sees the last few winged creatures head away in the still, late morning air. He turns his engine back on and heads again slowly east.  He will finish school someday.  He will.   He will move again like he did once a few years ago.  It will happen.  He looks around as he nears the house in so many photos and the sky is so perfect.  So serene.  The day is decorated.  The hour is full bellied with colors and sounds as an ideal Saturday morning could be.   The oyster smell is still puzzling, like it rode up from some Saturday, from some errant moment in the time of horses and steam ships.  He once swore as a boy he heard conversation as a dying high thunderstorm fell, voices speaking of things of towns before cities, of words he only knew in books. When he spoke of it of course no one believed him. Why should they?  Past is past, present is present, future is unformed far ahead.
Gerald a month ago watched a spider make a web.  He had no idea how he got there.  It seemed as though time hiccupped, space burped out him and this moment.  He saw it finish and it made him cry happy tears, mesmerized even in the freezing cold and strange feeling of not being sure where he was.  He felt wet too.   He applauded the little spider sitting cold and lost but with signs to know how to get away. To get home.

His dad hides his drinking well. Always has.  That breakfast perfect goodbye and his big moment of new beginning dad seemed fresh and alert and almost a computer result of what a perfect parent composite could be.  He also was hungover.  Gerald in high school had the first moment.  He was at a party dancing and laughing and it hit him.  I could become him.  This could become what he does.  Then the moment was over.

Gerald drives now past the amazing house sure to make for amazing pictures, he shudders past this place of light and color, of a seemingly perfect present to imagine living in.
The oyster smell.  He thinks now of how he could almost taste it on the air.  Air painted with smells.  It could have been some fluke of the air full of warmth, a certain buoyancy, maybe even those drifting butterflies.  It could have also been a dull ghost, no face or floating chair, the dull phantasm of leaking past, of some Saturday, maybe of the town once here before the homes and even the roads.  He can no longer smell it.  It was burnt a bit, but he misses it somehow now.  He passes a small park full of 2 baseball games and 3 birthdays.  It makes him accelerate.  He sees the usual balloons with sweet banal phrases and wants to share their cake and to drive past black windowed self-blinded off ahead. Always ahead.

Gerald away at college did well.  Good grades.  Another scholarship.  A grant.  He had a girlfriend for a time and they really loved each other.    He loved his roomie in the dorms and then roomie with 2 friends in an off-campus apartment.  He had a good part time job too.  His calls back home and texts were idyllic.  Almost perfect.  Mom even joked about it but believed it too.   He did not tell them how things really simply were.  How their waving goodbyes haunted him deeply.  He missed them and could not shake a homesick loneliness.  He also could not shake how in a weird way he felt betrayed by that perfect moment.  Nothing could ever live up to it again.  Saturdays with the sun shining in his new rainy home had parks and people cooking and parties and photos to take and the dark feeling in him again, to not trust it, not a bit.

The spider web was perfect.   So perfect it needed to float clean away.  Each line and strand all together was a masterpiece of form and function.  It was fascinating and amazing.  It also was his windshield.  The spider was a bit of his hair.  He was up from blacking out.  He was crashed on the road back from a birthday party.  Time was forever and a moment as his head injury made it so.  He eventually got assistance from passing cars and the days in the hospital and the mend.  He got home and got the windshield fixed.  He did not get arrested.  He could have.  The spider still to him is perfect.  The web still makes him pause at its form and majesty.

He crashed that car they waved to.  He totaled that car with the rear window their arms shook shrinking behind that one morning.  He was not dad.  Not yet.  He still is not but it like the possibility of some shiny scholarship or a meteor hitting the earth while he takes a test or kisses someone is always to be possible.  He got drunk that night and had planned to travel.  He planned to get away.
Next month he starts school again.  He is living at home this term like the last.  His old room is a stillborn museum of him at 18 when he first left with a few spots and specks of current mess and laundry.  He for some reason likes it this way.  He likes now to travel.  He plans today to head to Paris.  He will leave soon enough.   His mom supports him as he is back at the local college that accepts all, not the shiny place far away she once waved to.  Dad is dad.  He still hides it all well.  Yesterday they talked baseball like when Gerald was a kid.  Dad did not comment on Gerald again getting grades low to high doing that autopilot disconnect floating thing yet again.   They avoided it well.  They had a really perfect moment talking about old memories of baseball cards and the possible future of a local pitcher.  It really was perfect.  Then they went to their rooms apart the rest of the day.

He arrives at the airport shuttle stop and leaves his car.  He rides conspicuously in the small crowd with no luggage.    he stares out the window past the stares of an older couple who find him odd.  He arrives and heads to the bar.  Paris this time.  A good short visit.  Right on the itinerary.
The others at the bar see a drunk pass out in a booth.  They see a crumpled body and wrinkled shirt.  They see a sad drunk past his limit.  The bartender is sure he did not serve him that much.
Gerald is walking down the small tunnel now, waved to his seat, 23a  on the aisle.  The stewardess smiles, he puts on his seatbelt, he adjusts the air.  He is on his way.
They will collect the drunk soon enough, maybe splash cold water on him, get him coffee, get him home.

the plane begins taxiing down the runway.  A short trip.  He will sightsee and wander.  He will forget the time and explore some shops and maybe see the beach.

The bartender watches the drunk in the booth now.  Poor thing. So not in the present.
Gerald can travel days in an hour this way.  He is happy and relaxed.

The worried old couple in the bar consider calling the police but will wait and let him wake up soon enough.

Gerald is not in present, future or past,  the details are not horrid nor are they perfect, he is just going to travel.  The day has been beautiful and it is simply been.  The parties will end in the parks in a few hours.   Sunday and Monday will come soon enough.
The butterflies across town have left the city limits, off somewhere.
 The sun will set like it does extinguished by another night.
In a few minutes they will pour water on the quiet drunk so clearly doing nothing in some nothing bar on such a beautiful weekend day.


Gerald is leaving for Paris.
He prefers it this way.


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