A Piece of My Past

Last night I learned of the passing of Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots, Velvet Revolver, and The Wildabouts. The news didn’t sink in right away. If anything, in these days of technology and instant media coverage, I worried about this being a hoax or a mistake. But soon we learned the truth; Scott had passed away in his sleep.

I was instantly saddened by the loss of a creative life but also the loss of a part of my childhood. You see, I was a teenage in the midst of the 90’s and as most teenagers do, I found myself in the music that radiated through the radio. We sat by the speakers of our boom boxes and stereos with a cassette tape cued up so we could quickly begin recording our favorite songs. So many songs with the missing first few seconds due to our fingers not being fast enough to punch record when we heard the song we had been waiting anxiously to catch. Then, slowly, CDs made their way into our hands and we played them relentlessly on our skiddish, chunky CD players that we handled with extreme care to avoid any skipping.

His death is an instant reminder that, while my teenage years will always be a part of me and who I am, the past is stretching farther and farther from me. It’s now a distant memory to be retrieved and reminisced about when a part of it dies. My teenage years wearing flannel mixed with sunflowers and listening to alternative rock on KROQ is fading and only comes to mind when I hold a memorial for another piece that has passed away.

So in honor of Scott and STP and my angsty, teenage self, I’ll listen to his sultry voice and remember all the times I sang with him. I’ll remember the all lyrics that felt personal to me then and still have an impact on me today. I’ll uncover those dusty memories and hang the pictures in my mind once again as if they are fresh and new. I’ll live like I was 14 again and I’ll try not to dwell on the fact that in a day or two all of these pieces will again fade into the storage deep in my heart and mind to be forgotten again until another part dies and we are forced to hold another wake for our past.

A Final Wish

I one time sat,
my desk a mess of papers,
so studiously and dulled
as I worked through the day.
When there by my side,
stood a man, just my size,
in a coat and woolen cap.

He was dapper and clean shaven,
no more than fifty years old.
His smile was careful and grim.
He watched me in silence,
his existence unnoticed
by all of those nearby.

I worked without notice,
ignoring his presence
so close to my tiny work space.
But soon I couldn’t resist
but to glance up and say,
“Sir, can I help you today?”

His smile widened
yet his face stayed the same.
Up reached his freckled hand
as he tipped his hat and said,

“Oh how you’ve grown,
so beautiful and fine.
A young woman you are now,
with a life of your own.”

His words of comfort and
air of friendship and ease
made me sit back against my chair
“And who are you, please?”

The man replaced his hat
standing upright and tall.
He closed his eyes and
cleared his throat and answered,
“No one you know.”

“I knew you once,
a long time ago
before your memories even began.
I’ve been dead these past thirty years
and return only to say
it is time for you to go.”

I couldn’t comprehend,
my mind tripping and faulting.
This was just a man here,
standing so close,
and not a ghost.

But soon I could see
the wall across from me
through the sad smile on his face.
I knew then it was true
he was not alive like
me or you.

I grasped at my thoughts
my heart beat in my chest
as I struggled to come to grips.
“What do you mean?”
I choked out,
fear holding my voice.
“How can this be? Do I get any choice?”

With a grim shake of his head,
fear was replaced by dread
as I waited for his response.

“Long long ago,
as I was resting on my death bed,
your mother, my friend,
was there by my side,
and there till the end.
Before I passed, I had a vision of a young girl,
your type,
dying a most untimely death.
With a tear and a frown,
she asked me to make clear
if it was her unborn child
she already held dear.

To her I replied that I hated to say
it was just this way
I saw in my vision so clear as daylight.
Against my chest, she cried broken hearted
and asked me to be there for you.
To watch and to witness your life to the end,
a promise I intended to keep.

So here I am, I’m sorry to say.
Your time to go has come.
But you need not fear,
for I am here,
fulfilling your mother’s greatest wish.
That you enter into
a life ever after
with a friend by your side.”

My tears began ceasing,
my anxiety slowly decreaing.
If I had no choice why should I cry?
I wiped my eyes
and drew a deep breath
as I looked up and realized
it was him.

The man by my bedside
a distant figure in a frame.
A man of times gone by.
The man in my dreams,
a sturdy figure that watched
me as I slept peacefully.
The figure I’d see out of the corner of my eye
when the end of the day drew near.

He’d always been there
from my youth until now.
He had fulfilled my loving mother’s only wish.

“Can I ask of one thing?” I quietly inquired
my voice barely able to escape.
“May I leave a letter to my mother?”

The specter nodded slowly,
his eyes closed tight and peaceful
as I set down to pen
a simple farewell.

With my tongue pressed against my lips,
I sealed the envelope closed
and left it on my desk
addressed neatly as I could.

As I stood and accepted my fate,
my friend reached out his hand.
Warm and guiding he took mine in his,
and together we faded away.
Into a void of nothing but mist
we floated along, arm in arm.
Then, without notice,
he stopped me and asked
“What was it you wrote? What did you have to say?”

And to him I smiled,
a tear gently dropping, and said,
“I let her know,
you fulfilled her wish.
That together we’d forever be,
daughter and father.”

And with a squeeze of my hand and
a smile that stretched ear to ear,
we left the plane of earth for
a world beyond,
a world without fear.

Okidata

I stood limply, my hand resting against the cabinet that housed our servers and router along with other cables and cords all mixed and matched to make a roadwork of electric veins running along the floor.

An ink cartridge shuttled across the green bar paper, leaving behind a trail of numbers, customer names, and totals. The tape running from one side of the printer to the other shifted rhythmically as the shuttle pulled along the black stream of ink.

It was soothing to stand there, my body still except for the faint movement involved with breathing. I was lucky that was an involuntary body function or I may have completely forgotten to breathe. In the room next to me I could hear his voice as he explained to her the details.

The service would be held after the weekend. His son was planning the details. So far the family knew as did most of the county due to the paper printing the whole fucking mess.

I closed my eyes and listened to the scuttle of the printer as it spit out the report for that morning’s receivings. Such a small detail in the much larger scheme of life; a few pages with black ink organized into rows of information to be read, recorded and filed away, never to be thought of again.

The side of the conversation I could hear had turned into monosyllabic sounds in response to the person on the other end. It made sense, there wasn’t really a lot to talk about when suicide is involved. Just the details of the where, when, how and with what can be really discussed. After that the conversation becomes a silence so deep your bones echo it back through your body as you wonder to yourself the last question: why?

But instead of asking out loud, you keep that one to yourself. You do it a little out of respect for the dead and more so for those still left behind to pick up the shattered pieces of a broken life. But you ponder this question in the silence that follows the news that someone you knew, maybe someone you loved, took their own life.

Why did they do it? Was their life so bad that they saw death as the only way out? Why would they do this to their family and children? Why did it have to end this way?

Why?

The Okidata printer stopped and the report flopped over the edge into the basket below, pooling into a folded stack of figures and data. I bent over to pick it up and slowly pursued the front page but could see only a blur of black in between green and white lines with perforated edges framing it.

None of it made sense. The numbers, the collected data, the reasons, the grief. It all swirled together into a cloudy mess of anger and worry and sorrow.

Why? Why would there always be one question left unanswered?

Why did it have to end this way?