Thursday, December 25, 2014

Slipping and sliding

December 18, 1980

Who is left but the color guard when the band ceases playing?
Crowds still clutter the sidewalk, a meandering mass that flows from one glittering holiday display to the next, like moths attracted to flame, seeking last minute shopping deals.
Meanwhile, a single drummer marks time for the last of Passaic’s parade with little left for the participants except to wait for next year’s performance.
Passaic is cold and the only paraders left are the pigeons waddling down the streets pecking at crumbs left by kids and other onlookers, who have moved on to do what is most necessary this last week before Christmas: shopping.
Thick clouds decorate the sky like a cotton roof stuck up there with glue and prayer, destined to fall a bit at a time and cover over streets already laden with ice and chunks of previously fallen snow.
It is still three days until the official start of winter, but the season stomps over this city with heavy boots.
It is my first winter in Passaic without Pauly and Garrick, who have moved on to better digs elsewhere in Jersey.
I feel alone – although their ugly faces keep popping into my head as I expect to see them around each corner, each saying “hello,” or “good bye” or “go to hell.”
I am completely isolated again, a condition I thought I had escaped by leaving the Montclair rooming house, only to discovered that I had packed my loneliness in my bags and brought it with me, only to unpack it now,
I carry it with me even as I stroll these sidewalks and hear the ring of the church bells.
Perhaps they are some sign of hope, something to cling to that will allow me to drag myself out of my current malaise.
Last night my girlfriend came stinking of Christmas cheer, and we cried.
I am so worried about her leaving for Colorado next August that I forget that I still have today.
I also forget how easy it is to lean on her for support and how heavy a burden I must be, knowing in the end I cannot depend upon her or anyone, but have to stand on my own two feet as I have always done – and doing so means being lonely.
It is perpetually winter and the ground always slippery, leaving us to grab hold of something or someone at intervals to keep from falling. But such things are always a temporary relief, something we cannot depend on to last, like an ice covered rail that appears at most need, but soon gives way and leaves us to stumble ahead without support or guidance.
There is the practical stuff such as getting another job now that the Christmas gig at Toys R Us winds down.
But after more than a decade working steady jobs, I understand that labor of any kind is just a trap, something I must do to survive, but should not expect to prosper.
The experiment of college has only incited me to riot, making me ache for things that are only remotely possible, dangling the hope of success when in reality offering only the key to a larger and more elaborate jail cell.
There is hope in it, but not for the mass of people who move through these like cattle to feed the job machine.
And yet, attending school was enough of a distraction for me to keep on. Now with the winter break, I’m lost again. My friends, who had until recently, shared my misery, gone to find new plantations, while I trudge along here in Passaic, slipping and sliding through life’s winters, fearing to tread, and yet equally scared to stay put.

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