Like a moth to flame I couldn't resist - no matter how it burned me, no matter if it killed me. When I peered inside that Starbucks I saw a world where I wanted to belong. Those were people I wanted to spend time with, that was my language being spoken in there, of books and films and Nature's unrealized dreams. That language of the streets I speak, that's not really me. But it's a dialect I've been forced to use.
Yet I observed many of the aliens who frequented the establishment with a jaundiced eye. They thought their work important because of the lifestyle it gave them. That detached air of material success, of living in a castle in the sky - that was the world they inhabited. One night in the shelter with me and they'd be ruined for life, forever fallen to dirty wormy earth.
And that made them afraid. And if they could spot you as homeless, that made them doubly afraid. To them, you were a theory, a bogeymen in the night. But to see that bogeyman incarnate! The looks of hatred are unmistakable. That was OK, though. I surely hated them back with their phony chatter and self-important business talking points. I mean, really. Who gives a fuck about your lamers powerpoint presentation?
Of course, having never lived in that world and having no identity of my own, I cravenly wondered if I could survive on Planet Pretentious. Certainly not with these clothes I couldn't. And certainly not with keeping a desire to live intact. I was forced to flash back to my one brush with a being of their kind, when I had tripped up his attempt to mock me using my superior intelligence. I'll never forget his flashing hatred, a sweet invalidation of his life. It was a rare time when someone shows their true face - a face literally wanting to kill me.
That's what happens when you upsets someone's world view. Jeopardize their latte and you put your life on the line! Yes, indeed, I'll say it again: your unexamined life is not worth living with. But here I am yet again, looking inside this plate glass window knowing they'd despise me if I were dumber than them and hate me if I were smarter. And then I saw her sitting there.
Whatever her soils and stains of that world I did not care. Like Gandhi said, how can I protest sins we all share? What if I too had the the chance to live in that world? What kind of blind-eyed douchebag would I be? I shuddered to think. But she was different. It's one of those very rare moments in life: a recognition. I'd learned the (very) hard way not to ignore these moments. They are as real as the sun.
Oh, how dangerous to cross over to my life unlived. I was afraid to wholly believe my eyes. Was I wanting to see something so badly I was making it up? I wanted to invade hostile territory regardless of the flak, making a soiree directly beside her, to pick her brain, make her laugh and to soak in her irresistible presence. All these thoughts came to me before I had even met her. That book she was reading looked familiar too. If only I could make out the title...
"The Ink Dark Moon"! Ancient female Japanese poetry! Dear God in heaven, I wasn't making her up. Filled with short delightful poems, it's an escape book of mine, allowing me to live in my own castle in the sky. There I can connect to the universe - rent fucking free. Was she doing that too? Was there any way onto her cloud? Could even a God who'd abandoned this world have pity on me?
I started checking on her, obsessed with this feeling. I hadn't felt like this since I was child of innocence, before the world had beaten me. This wasn't romantic though I noticed her sexual energy and wondered of it. This was like finding a friend who you knew before you even met. One day I got another clue, she'd left a movie ticket on her table. I'm a stickler for fine movies so I grabbed it with hesitation.
Ha! It was one of those talking animal movies. One of the few I'd actually seen. In the street world, these kind of films are not understood. Not too many people want to discuss the joys of watching "Milo and Otis" while destitute. Maybe they don't think that's keeping it real. If so, they've got a another think coming. Real is when you live.
My instincts bursting, I was completely under her spell at this point. Problem was, how was I going to explain what I'd done with my life to her? I had deliberately shut out her and her ilk just so I'd never be exposed as one who'd wasted his supposed talents. Few have a problem believing you're a worthless bum and blindly accept the surface. But some people are able to see more, not blinded by anger. Was that in her heart?
My big break came when I found out she was in a writing class. I had written a novel once, maybe I could write again. I went back and forth for days debating the wisdom of joining that class. Was it really fair to join only because of her? What if she found out my true motives? I have no pretensions on being a writer. My descriptive powers are more visual, not literary. But I also knew my imagination was unique. Well, fuck...
"You fraud! Get the hell out of here!" No one said that when I signed up except for the ever so helpful voice in my head. I noticed exactly where she sat. Don't be too obvious! I anxiously looked forward to my time to share. Would she approve? I didn't care about the rest of class, just her. I told the story of a home living geek who painted his portrait as God. When asked why this hubris he replied, "I got laid didn't I?" She laughed reflexively. I trembled.
It was hell keeping up a pretense of normalcy. I had to keep my clothes absolutely clean and ironed. So many extra chores to maintaining an image! I didn't want to shame her or worse, be that friend she hid from her "real" friends. "Who's that?" "Oh, just some guy." I'd never return after hearing that. She wouldn't be able to find me if she wanted to. And yet, she was everything I'd hoped.
The writing was our common bond. Could I be in her life without it? The pressure was immense to keep up as I fell behind. Write or die! I knew she was having difficulty maintaining her writing drive. She wanted my approval one day on her proposed ideas. I said nothing. I was was paralyzed with fear she'd lose interest in writing - and I'd be thrown out with it. Dear God, please let my time in heaven go on just a little bit longer.
Then she invited me to her house. (I, of course, could never invite her to my cot.) It was just as I had imagined: pristine and orderly in a swank townhouse in a swank neighborhood. Walking in I felt as Moses before the burning bush, forced to face what I wanted most. The air of life, the great honor of her sharing her domain with me - I was truly walking in the clouds. But the fact remained: she was from my life unlived.
My little voice was screaming but I didn't want to hear. I had crossed the line; a bridge too far. How could I ever go back to my dog food diet after tasting the finest steak? Every bite for the rest of my life would drain my soul. They say ours is a merciful God but I have not witnessed this. Mine was the gravest of sins: having tasted life I now stood infected with a delirious desire for living. For that there is no hope.
Sabotage came in the worst way. She had no idea I knew her unspoken insecurities. She too had fears (the idea of her fearing me was hard to process at the time, though). It was easy to write with her support as my friend. I wanted to collaborate but to do so was to take our relationship to a deeper level and go through a door of which there is no return. The bonding would be just too dangerous.
The final straw was knowing of my phony image. If she ever saw the real me...
So I played on her secret fears and she barred me from her home. The "real me" was safe from discovery. But that is also a death sentence. I have since been disfigured by the pain in both physical and mental terms, I limp with boils on my skin and an ingrained scowl on my face. If she somehow overcame her fear and pride to came my way, I'd be more horror stricken than ever for her to see me.
The horror of love unspoken
So I'm left bleeding on the street, pining away as I sit on benches of chipped paint, staring at gutters of chipped concrete. People have asked me if I still write. "I don't know," I answer, my heart not in it anymore, wanting it to be over. If taken to Guantanamo and forced to confess, they'd find out I had secretly become dependent on her. "So how is it you can still write without her then, your terrorist prick bastard?" "Easy," I seethe in deep bitterness. "I just pretend she's still my friend...then die of heartbreak afterward."