"In our dreams, as in our tales, we use the dead to tell us things we’d otherwise have to admit that we are saying to ourselves."

The Shadow Catcher by Marianne Wiggins

"Grow ups love figures. When you tell them that you have made a new friend, they never ask you questions about essential matters. They never say to you, “What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies?” Instead, they demand: “How old is he? How many brothers has he? How much does he weigh? How much does his father make? Only from these figures do they think they have learned anything about him."

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

"The only true story ends in death."

Herman Melville

Why Can’t This Boy Pull Away From A Conversation?

He’d noticed this compulsion before but he’d never though to analyze it. To suck an answer from the center of this inapposite bone. Odd, considering he overanalyzed everything around himself, often to the degree of social handicap. Odd, because it had struck him as such, and still he had only passively reminisced on this uncharacteristically benevolent behavior that he posessed.

What he wondered about was hy he could never seem to remove himself from a conversation. Why, when people gathered around the kitchen table or on a street corner or anywhere at all really, he never suffered from boredom and felt compulsed to walk away, never wanted the stories, the jokes, the complaints, the condolences, the wit to end.

And then it burst through the levees of his mind, flooding him with thoughts that flowed like rivers through landscapes of memory good and bad. He realized.

Realized why when he was younger and they would visit all those foreign houses and apartments of people whom he did not know and seemed to not care to know he would spend the entire visit nimbly rummaging through and observing everything. It was easy as a child, especially one as quiet and furtive as this little boy. He would roam the kitchens and the living rooms as if they were a country unexplored. Digging through cabinets at the first chance he received, carefully opening and shutting drawers to tables tucked between couches and fireplaces.

Old photographs, phonebooks (back when they still had them), envelopes, knick knacks, letters, newspaper clippings, chapbooks, vital records. He anthologized it all in his mind. A sort of anthropologist of domestic American adults.

Then the stairs of course. He loved the upstairs! First and foremost because he could be alone, away from wary eyes plump with the impulse for inquisition.

Bedrooms, bathrooms, attics, linen closets. Anything he could find, he studied. Paintings and where they were placed, choice of curtain, signs on doors, maybe a cat or a dog asleep on the carpet. This is how he introduced himself to people.

Realized why he bent over desks to lean in on intimate words passed between others. Why he eavesdropped on everybody within earshot.

Why he loved the way that girl Hillary had reprimanded his having referred to her as Hill one day in class and the way the ticketmaster on the train greeted familiar faces in his thick Irish accent.

How the guy at the bookstore or the girls at the bagel shop all know him. How he revisits old friends just to know how their past year went.

"Don’t you just looooooveeee just sitting around?" the girl said to him as they lay on the hot pavement in second grade.

The girl that showed up drunk in Latin class.

Waiting for the guy to print the receipt at 10 PM after his car had been towed.

The girl who whispered to herself “just keep swimming, just keep swimming” throughout the entire swim class.

Why he never understood not caring. Because it was all a lie when he said he didn’t care. Because every “How are you?”, every softspoken hey, every moment spent internalizing the people around him had been caring. He cared about their days and their months and their years and their whole lives and the lives of the people before them who were all food for worms now.

Why the first “grown up” literature he took to were memoirs. How he could step outside, ready to begin what he planned as a busy day of chore-like accomplishment, and have his intentions squashed simply because he could not pull himself from sitting with his neighbor on the stoop for the next two and half hours. It’s like a magnetic force.

Everytime he rolled his eyes he was deceiving himself. As if it were his niche to be “above that” or to sarcastically shrug off what anyone else had to say. Because really, he could never bring himself to hang his head above anyone else. Beyond a fleeting second of spoke-too-soon, he never believe that he was better than anyone else and never wanted to be better than anyone else. He was never fully disenchanted with humanity, never truly hated anyone. He was secretively but humbly in awe of everyone. No one that the light of his eyes cast upon escaped his fascination. No one elses words tired him or could be trivialized or forgotten. His did not possess the means inflate his own ego with the failures or faults of other people.

And he just couldn’t pull himself away again and again and again, his life’s truest addiction, his full throttle, high energy thrill, the most enlightening form of meditation and mediation of all thoughts, feelings, and dreams human which he encontered everyday.

He did not merely confess this new consciousness to himself but danced in its assauging, hair-raising charm the likes of which he had felt before in those earlier days overflowing with curiosity and appreciation, when he would discover some object of particular curiosity under the bed of some former stranger.

This time; however, he was looking under his own bed, and he came upon the enchanting, previously unseen philosophy: he loves people!

"A story is not like a road to follow … it’s more like a house. You go inside and stay there for a while, wandering back and forth and settling where you like and discovering how the room and corridors relate to each other, how the world outside is altered by being viewed from these windows. And you, the visitor, the reader, are altered as well by being in this enclosed space, whether it is ample and easy or full of crooked turns, or sparsely or opulently furnished. You can go back again and again, and the house, the story, always contains more than you saw the last time. It also has a sturdy sense of itself of being built out of its own necessity, not just to shelter or beguile you."

— Alice Munro (via yourfinesthour)

(Source: adayforhappiness)

Dinosaur by Bruce Holland Rogers

When he was very young, he waved his arms, snapped his massive jaws, and tromped around the house so that the dishes trembled in the china cabinet. “Oh, for goodness’ sake,” his mother said. “You are not a dinosaur! You are a human being!” Since he was not a dinosaur, he thought for a time he might be a pirate. “Seriously,” his father said to him after school one day, “what do you want to be?” A fireman, maybe. Or a policeman. Or a soldier. Some kind of hero.

But in high school they gave him tests and told him he was good with numbers. Perhaps he’d like to be a math teacher? That was respectable. Or a tax accountant? He could make a lot of money doing that. It seemed a good idea to make money, what with falling in love and thinking about raising a family. So he became a tax accountant, even though he sometimes regreeted it, because it made him feel, well, small. And he felt even smaller when he was no longer a tax accountant, but a retired tax accountant. Still worse: a retired tax accountant who forgot things. He forgot to take the garbage to the curb, to take his pill, to turn his hearing aid on. Every day it seemed he forgot more thing, important thing, like where his children lived and which of them were married or divorced.

Then one day, when he was out for a walk by the lake, he forgot what his mother had told him. He forgot that he was not a dinosaur. He stood blinking his dinosaur eyes in the rbight sunlight, feeling its familiar warmth on his dinosaur skin, watching dragonflies flitting among the horsetails at the water’s edge.

Reinforcements

It all starts with rebar. I used to wonder why it is called “re”bar when the cast-iron rods that we pound into the ground are the first “bars” to be established. I asked my foreman this question twenty-six years ago when I first took a hammer to one.

“What?”

I repeated the question.

“You pound it into the ground,” he replied. “Then you wait for the truck.”

I tried to clarify. “Yes, that thing that I am pounding into the ground is a ‘bar,’ but what makes it a ‘re’bar?”

He nodded gravely and considered the matter anew. “Yep,” he said. “You pound it into the ground, you wait for the truck. On Friday you get paid. See you on Monday?”

I saw him on Monday for seven years, until he had a stroke. He was only fifty-six. He had worked construction since he was nineteen, the same age I was when I started.

The foreman had left some things out. You don’t just wait for the truck. You watch your colleagues tell dirty jokes, eat sloppy sandwiches, and chain-smoke cigarettes. You hear them talk about how a ham sandwich kind of looks like a cunt, and how the cunt that made it should have used more mustard. You wince. You read The New Yorker on your break. Sometimes, you wander off to look for any uncommon things that might have turned up in the displaced dirt. You do get paid on Fridays.

To be fair, I also left a few things out. I said that it all starts with rebar. It doesn’t. It starts with a hole. Some heavy equipment comes and makes a hole. You get in it. After you put in the rebar you climb out of the hole and wait for the truck. You, too, smoke cigarettes, one after another, and eat sandwiches that drip. The cunt jokes don’t really bother you that much. You kind of see the resemblance. You’ll be damned if you ever find anything exceptional in the neck-high mounds of dirt that surround the hole. Somebody has to shovel the concrete as the truck deposits it in the hole. Most of the time it is you. The sun sets, and so does the concrete. You let your subscription to The New Yorker lapse. You finally make foreman.

“Why ‘re’bar?” Some smug new hire asks.

“Because it ‘re’inforces the concrete,” I want to say, but I give him the correct answer.

“You get paid on Fridays.”

Damon Barta