04 January 2015

Is this the year for you?

(I seriously doubt it's for me.)

2015. There. I said it.  (Actually, I wrote it.)

And so it begins: another year of the blogging virus. Will any of us survive?

On Saturday, I felt a pang in my side. A pang is non-descript, a physical sensation that has no physical cause. A chimera, a mystery, a riddle wrapped in flimsy flesh. But I felt it.

The pang expanded, filled my torso until I almost could not breathe. For a few precious moments I thought that was the end for me, the beginning of not-me, my doppelganger. I checked my daily nutritional consumption to investigate the nature of what may have prompted the pang. I considered events of recent days, dismissing each of them summarily as unlikely causes.

I thought it best to rest, so I laid down. (Grammarians need not be concerned, at this point, for I actually did open a bag of duck feathers and spread them around on the floor.) I was already near the floor, you see, so I took my leisure there, close to the undercarriage of society, and there did I nap.

A resurgent pang awoke me, however, called me to rise and rise I did, like the morning sun in the land of the morning calm. Suddenly, I knew the source of my pang. Regret. It's always about regret. Usually somewhere in the plural. Regrets. And there would be more: a year's worth of them, surely.

The little bird outside, robinesque in its twittering, clenching firmly the bending, bouncing twig, dared suggest that a new day had finally dawned, and so I yawned. Already it was year 2015 on the standard calendar. Such an artificial construct! And I wondered: how had I managed, despite myself, to have reached this date? 

I recalled sometime in year 1984 wondering how I could have possibly reached that date, given all I knew or had done (or not done). At the time, I felt as though I had been blessed by a fistful of free hamburger coupons. That exuberance had caused me to reflect deeply on 1975 and the severe dismay I had felt for so many of those months. Much worse than 1962 when all I worried about were toys. Then, in 1999, I again faced the dark abyss and considered whether or not I could make that leap of faith and land sure-footed on the good side of Y2K. (I did.)

And then year 2004 and year 2008 came and went with much hurrah and much sighing, like any good matinee down at the multiplex. Luck of the draw. Everything begins and ends, after all, and you hardly ever see the smoke and the mirrors behind the dog and pony show. You see what you want to see and you get what you pay for. What comes free is always of questionable vintage. The peanuts are free, of course. And the can of soda, too--unless you sit in Business class. There the wine is free.

In fact, this entire holiday period seems drawn from a deep dream. For reason which still remain hidden, I gathered myself into a long box and later awoke and climbed out of that box, rather vampire-like in my proclivities and mannerisms if not for my skin condition. That is not quite how I wished to be, you must understand, but there I was: an automaton driven forth through the streets of some large foreign city, perpetually lost, always on guard and mute, unclear as to my destination. It was a nightmare but without the horse.

It seemed as though I was taken to a temple high on a mountainside and for a brief moment I believed I would be given the opportunity to leap off the top and fly, fly, fly away home. But no, not that. It's never that simple. Instead, the sordid experiments began and for several days there was no technology allowed but for the glasses I always wore. No clothes or shoes, either, only a thin robe and straw sandals. And winter had come. The food was rice and cabbage, and boiled tofu if I was behaving myself. And tea. Lots of tea. But no Q & A. LOL was swiftly punished.

Thus I did not speak, only listened; nobody was saying anything anyway. The world was reduced to birdsong, wind, heartbeats, and the disconcerting creaks of tired timbers along the floor I traversed from morning chant to afternoon meditation to evening sleep. After a couple days, I thought I was imagining everything, as though it were all a dream within a dream within a fortune cookie within a snowball set somewhere safe yet sullen. I was a muffin without a paper wrapper. And coffee was far, far away.

Then the curse broke and I was flying--yes, at long last, like a scrawny, half-starved bird, wax wings holding tight, soaring high to the ancient castle on the top of another, better mountain. And there I was hooked by long talons and wrestled inside through a latticed portal, placed on a davenport of Naugahyde and made to chirp my cute English words as though I were an expert. Or someone's prized pet. Occasionally I would be given a tasty treat. Mostly, I listened, for there was much I did not understand.

Not sure what exactly happened--though fairly certain it was not quite a dream (surely not a sleeping one, that is), but I nevertheless hold out for the possibility that I could have been fully conscious yet simply unaware of what was unfolding and refolding around me, so Laundromat-like in its efficiency, as it were--I chose to accept all of it. Indeed, what else could I do? 

And now the waking dream comes to an end--as all realities must at the start of a new page, the first of many: pages filled line by line with regrets, or the occasional cross-out of things that surprisingly went well, day by day. The earth still turns, still bleeds, still crow-caws, and humor is a rare delicacy. But now the pillows have burst, the clocks have been smashed, and the ringing of the school bell awaits. I shun reality like fermented bean paste mixed through with whole dried minnows and a side of kimchi. Because I can. Because I must. Because there is pizza.

If I somehow make it to year 2016, it will be only because of you: my invisible, semi-fictitious, semi-delicious companions on the rocky road to somewhere muffin-warm and marshmallow-soft, sweet and sour like breaded chicken cubes, a rare respite akin to real retirement in the rustic inn along the narrow side of the road, just beneath that crooked, towering mountain covered with ice and snow, and the precariously poised stones tilting there, ready to fall from its heights. Yes, that one. 

We are all in it together. Let's make the most of our fresh set of downs!

BTW, FYI, Year of the Lamb!

(C) Copyright 2010-2015 by Stephen M. Swartz. All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog, whether text or image, may be used without me giving you written permission, except for brief excerpts that are accompanied by a link to this entire blog. Violators shall be written into novels as characters who are killed off. Serious violators shall be identified and dealt with according to the laws of the United States of America.


  1. I am always here to commiserate with the professor when life is so good there is no reason for him to write, and also in the dark days when writing is the only solace.

    1. You'd probably have to go back to the early '60s to find a writing-free era.