Tag Archives: good

“A Man Gets Tied Up to The Ground — He Gives The World Its Saddest Sound.”

(Continued from November 26th, 2011.)

“Make a wish,” he said.  “If you wish for something good — it WILL come true.”

I held the ring he gave me in the middle of my palm, and I stared at the open space caught in the center of its beaded circle.  It was made out of a tightly wound spiral of a single metallic line, as thin as a single hair on a horse’s mane.  I thought of my grandmother’s cuckoo clock whose pendulum she had stopped winding-up, suddenly one night.

Her husband, a retired fisherman, had gained himself a habit in his old age:  He’d climb up to the roof above their attic to watch the sunset every night.  There, he would witness the reunion of two unlikely lovers:  The sun would give up the ambition of its skies and melt into the waters of the Ocean beneath; and every such reunion would illuminate the old man’s eyes with colors of every precious stone in the world.

There, up on the rooftop, my grandmother would find him, when she returned home from work.

“My little darling boy!” she’d gosh.  “You’re too old for this game.”

She was eleven years his junior; but after a lifetime of waiting for the Ocean to return her lover, she hadn’t managed to forget her worries.  And even with his now aged body radiating heat in their mutual bed each night, she would dream up the nightmares of his untimely deaths.

“I’ve died so many times in your sleep, my baby lark,” he joked in the mornings, “I should be invincible by now.”

Still, the woman’s worrisome wrath turned her into a wild creature he preferred to never witness:  They were unlikely lovers, after all.  So, he’d smirk upon her scolding, obey and lithely descend.  Then, he would chase my grandmother into the corner bedroom of their modest hut.  And she would laugh.  Oh, how she would laugh!

One day, after she scolded him again, he slipped; and as she watched each grasp betray him, she suddenly expected that her lover could unfold his hidden wings and slowly swing downward, in a pattern of her cuckoo clock’s pendulum, or a child’s swing.  But he was an injured bird:  That’s why he could no longer go out to sea.

Upon the permanently wet ground, he crashed.  And on that night, she stopped winding-up the spiral inner workings of her clock.

“Well?  Did you make a wish?” the old Indian merchant asked me after I slipped his gift onto the ring finger of my left hand.

The beads rolled on the axis of the spiral and slid onto my finger like a perfect fit.  On its front, four silver colored beads made up a pattern of a four-petalled flower, or possibly a cross.  I bent the fingers of my hand to feel its form against my skin.  Under the light, the beads immediately shimmered.

“Well?  Did you?” the old, tiny man persisted.

Instead of answering him, I pressed the now ringed hand against my heart and nodded.

“See.  It is already coming true,” he said.

He was by now sitting in a lotus position on top of a lavender cloud.  It had earlier slipped out from behind the room with bamboo curtains, in the doorway, and it snuggled against his leg like a canine creature.  Before I knew it, the old man got a hold of the scruff of the cloud’s neck, and he reached down below — to help me up.

His hand was missing a ring finger.  How had I not noticed that before?  I studied his face for remnants of that story.  But it was not its time yet, so I got lost in between the wrinkles of his brown skin and followed them up to his eyes:

His eyes were two small suns, with amber colored rays.  The center of each iris was just a tiny purple dot, too narrow to fit in my reflection.  I looked for it though until the suns began to spin — each ray being a spoke on a wheel — faster and faster.

The spirals of the old man’s watch began unwinding, and we floated up through the layered clouds of time, up to the sunroof.  With a single gesture of his arm, the man unlatched the windowed frames.  He sat back down, shifted until his sit bones found their former markings in the lavender cloud; and when he turned to face me, I realized he had become a young lover of my own:  with jet black hair and a pair of smirking lips of that old fisherman who had stopped the spiral of the clock inside my grandma’s hut.

“I had a feeling about you,” he said and buried his four-fingered hand inside my loosened hair.  “You are the type to always wish — for good.”

“Hey. Hey-Hey. Hey. Hey-Hey. HEY! I’M GOOD!”

I was studying the faces of passengers on a downtown-bound subway the other night, and I thought:  Surely, these people had to be good.  Because I would much rather subscribe to the idea that the world was primarily filled with good people.  And I myself — would much rather be good, too.

(And I remember there was a man once who told me to never start a sentence with an “and”.  And I didn’t listen.  Obviously.)

I have nearly forgotten what it’s like to people-watch.  Unless on a rare occasion of some public gathering in LA-LA, one must always keep the eyes on the road.  Here, we drive, we speed; and we complain if we aren’t moving fast enough.  All the other people become mere faces which we quickly glaze over, behind the wheels of other cars, at stop signs and in the oncoming traffic:

Everyone keeps their eyes on the road.  Or on their cellphones, in the passenger seat.

Sometimes, I watch the faces reflected in my rearview mirror.  And every once in a while, I steel a gaze or a nod from the guy over in the next lane.  And that’s kind of nice.   It’s good.

 

(And I do remember:  There was a man once who told me to never start a sentence with an “and”.  And I didn’t listen.  Obviously.  And I am glad — that I didn’t.)

The accidental faces of pedestrians tend to zoom by us.  We aren’t used to them around here, unless driving through a rare public space expected to be packed with tourists.  Yet, even then, we avoid making eye contact with them, as if these people — who are most likely good — are nonexistent.  Instead, we nervously watch the quickly expiring gap to make a turn over a pedestrian walkway.  And if the guy on foot isn’t moving fast enough, we pretend not to see him and cut in front.  (Ah, shit!  What an inconvenience!)

Some pedestrians have a certain swagger around here.  They tend to live in those rare occasional spaces expected to be packed with tourists.  As locals, they tend to take their time crossing the street.  Ballsy, they make an eye contact with us, as if saying:

“What cha gonna do?  Run me ova’?!”

So, you wait, embarrassed at having caught yourself at being less than good.  And to avoid that shameful stare, you look over at your cellphone in the passenger seat.

The best thing is to wait.  Sometimes, the guy waves you over.  He’s moving on foot, and he knows he is not fast enough.  Because even when we are on the road (while not always keeping our eyes on it), we often wish to be miles ahead.  Around here, we are overwhelmed by the commitments that we continue negotiating on our cellphones in the passenger seat.

Here, we drive.  We speed.  LA-LA — is a working city, primarily.  Sometimes, we pretend to fit our lives in between; but most of us have come here to work.  And sometimes, we tend to forget that the world is still primarily filled with good people.  And that, no matter the work, we ourselves would much rather be good, too.

(And I do remember:  There was a man once who told me to never start a sentence with an “and”.  And he also told me that not everyone — was good.  And I didn’t listen.  Obviously.)

This middle-aged Mexican woman napping, with her tired head leaned against an anti-terrorism warning:  Surely, she’d put in a good day of work.  And surely, she had to be good!

The man in a construction worker’s overalls:  He looked like the guy stuck in our traffic for the entirety of his working day.  His already dark skin was filled with dust, exhaust — and exhaustion.  Because of his work, at some typical non-public space in LA-LA, there was probably more congestion on the road today.  And he watched us driving, speeding by, wishing to be miles ahead.

The businessman in a suit that lacked the sheen of a designer label:  He was staring down and a few feet ahead — in a New York subway fashion — and he wouldn’t steal as much as a gaze at a pretty girl who got on at the City College stop, at Santa Monica and Vermont.

And the pretty girl who got on at the City College stop:  Under her arm she carried a thick tome of some nursing book I myself would find impossible to decipher.  I wondered what made her choose the goodness of her future profession.  And what made her choose to be good.

And surely, these other people — on the way home from their days of good work — had to be good, too!

Because I would much rather subscribe to the idea that the world was primarily filled with good people. 

And I myself — would much rather choose to be good, too.

“When You Got Nothing — You Got Nothing To Lose.”

I was studying the face of a good man the other night…

“You jump to conclusions too fast,” my father would have said had I told him this story.  “Too trusting — that’s your problem.”

Dad is fearful, especially as a parent; and I can’t really judge the guy for that.  History has played a hideous prank on his country and his life, and it continues treating him and his people as dispensable.  Surely, there cannot be a bigger heartbreak than that.  There cannot be a bigger absurdity.  And I can’t really blame the poor guy caught in the midst of a Kafka play.  

So, I forgive him for his limitations, his shortcomings, his imposing fearfulness.  Instead, I stretch the boundaries of my unconditional love — of my compassion — and I choose to think of him as a good man.

My father — is a good, good man.

But I would never tell him this story:

I was studying the face of a good man the other night.  I barely knew him, but not once had I wondered whether he had made his share of mistakes in life, his share of missteps.  I suppose I was certain he had.  But they mattered little in that moment.

Because I chose to think of him as a good, good man.

(I AM too trusting — that’s my problem.)

And I listened.

He spoke to me of his travels, of leaving his doubts, vanity and fears behind; and biking across the country with nothing but a backpack and a camera.

He told me about the perseverance of the body if only one could control the mind.  In survival, he said, there was a chronic juxtaposition of reflexes versus fragility.  And when confronting the most basic needs, there was a balance and a great humility.

And there was beauty in the defeat of despair with one’s courage, in the elation of that success; and in the overall simplicity of living.

“What a good man!” I thought.  “What a good, good man!”

The road threw him for a loop a number of times, but he told me about the clarity of the mind if one was traveling light.

“It’s a good thing I hit the road without any expectations,” he told me.

It made sense.

He spoke about having no possessions to weight down his choices and no expectations.  Neither were there any grudges or resentments against humanity — others’ or his own.  His journey was not a conquest:  Not a thing dictated by the ego.  So, he traveled with a lesser emotional baggage, as someone who knew the power of forgiveness all too well.

His only responsibility on the road — was his family.  He would have been a lot more reckless, it seemed, had it not been for the nightly on-line messages that he promised to send their way.  And so he would.  No matter the difficulties of the day, no matter the survivals and the defeats, the despair and the courage, he would telegraph his experiences home.  And these letters — his road journals, the confessions of a transcendent mind — were the only threads leading back to the people he loved.

(I chuckled.  I would never tell my father this story:  He’d find me too trusting.  That’s my problem.)

“What made you do this thing in the first place?” I asked.

The humble badass smiled at me as if he could read the answer on my face — my good, good face — and he said:

“Because the one thing I know — is that I cannot stop knowing.”

And so, I was studying the face of a good man the other night; and it made me think of life as a sequence of choices.

My life — was not the life of my father:  I had bigger control over my circumstances; enough control to allow myself the occasional hubris of assuming that I was a person of consequence.  I could make choices, you see.  Unlike my father — my good, good father — I could choose my situations, or even change them.  And I had the luxury of freedom:  to pursue my life’s ambitions and to continue “knowing”; to continue learning.

Somehow, I had made the choice — to be good, in life.  There had been plenty of situations that tested my ethics before.  Yet even in defeat, in shame, in pain, I could always return to the track of goodness.  I could always see my way back to redemption.  Because even though my life was not my father’s, my ethics — were indeed his.

And my father — was always a good, good man.

And so, I was studying the face of a good, good man the other night; and it made me think of life as a sequence of choices.

“But I just can’t forgive myself,” my father had confessed a number of times.  “That’s my problem.”

Alas:  That was the main difference between my father’s character and my own.  I always chose to travel lightly, as someone who knew the power of forgiveness all too well.  I chose to have the power of self-forgiveness.   And I could always see my way back to redemption.

Good Woman Down — and Up! Up! Up!

Define “good”.  I bet cha you can’t.  Well, not precisely.  Not on the dot, not really.

You will grapple with your memories of what it must’ve felt like — to be “good” — but you won’t really know what moved you, to be that way.  To make that choice.  Maybe it was something your parents have taught you (or whoever made up for your parents).  But all you will manage, at best — is to spew out a few other ambitious words, or juxtapose “good” against antonyms, equally as vague and forsaken.

“It’s the opposite of that…  You’ll know it when you see it!” you conclude, perhaps impatiently.

Maybe, you’ll have better chances at recollecting memories of when “good” was being done to you:  Because it’s always easier to accept, than to give it.  Not many protest when they are submerged into someone else’s “goodness”.  (Well, at least, not until the self-loathing kicks-in, and they start splashing around in it, like a hysterical woman in a jacuzzi, making a fuss about her hair.)

Some of you will go full-fledged to religion or philosophy:  Someone surely must’ve written about “goodness”, even if they’ve forsaken it right after.  Oh maybe, poets have captured it, that wretched lot of humanity!

“I know this, I know this!” some of you will slap your foreheads and snap your fingers in space, as if trying to remember a name of an actor from one of those black-and-white movies we’ve all agreed to treat as a masterpiece.  Or that tune — “What’s the name of it?  I know this, I know this!” — and it’ll get stuck in your head for hours after.

And many of you will smile, while searching for the answers.  Yep.  Experts say it takes extra muscles to smileanother degree of an effort, fully committed.  Willing.  Kind of like “goodness”, no?

The other day, I had frantically reached for the definition of “my goodness” to the woman, who, on this planet, besides my motha, has known me the longest.  For years, this relationship was based on having nothing to prove to each other; and having nothing to need.  No matter my own idiotic choices throughout our history, she had never offered up a judgement:  Because she is “good” like that.

As before, she took her time answering, just so she could do it precisely.  On the dot.  Because she is “good” like that!  She couldn’t have known that my urgent need for her reassurance had come from an accusation by a scorned lover.  (Oh my goodness!)  I waited for her response.

In the mean time, I went off to stumble around my day in a state of some sort of walking sleep.  I bounced between my commitments, occasionally pulling over to the side of the road to jot down lists of “good thing” — things I was grateful for; things that I was hoping to discover later, just so that I could be grateful again.

I stopped by a girlfriend’s office:  She had been missing me, she said.  Always a stunner, this time around she looked even sharper.

“Sorry, I’m such a mess,” I said in comparison, pulled up my dress, then zipped up my jacket to hide it altogether.

“Nah,” she said, chewing on the black cherries I’ve brought her.  “I dig this look on you.”

She was busy.  I drove off.  In traffic, my phone lit up with her name:

“U r always so good to me!” said the text.

I felt dizzy.  Pulled over.  Jotted down a few things.  Remembered I needed food, got myself to the closest store.  In the “Canned Goods” aisle, I suddenly felt the urge to weep:  Months ago, in the same store, in a similar aisle, my departed lover had confronted me — with goodness:

“Look at you,” he had come upon me unexpectedly.  “Smiling at strangers.”

Clutching my random future purchase, I stared at the labels.  A gorgeous girl with a headful of Grecian curls reached around me:

“‘Scuse me,” she smiled.  I smiled simultaneously despite my face feeling exhausted.  Sorry:  I’m such a mess.  I watched her choose a can of hominy beans (not chickpeas!) and smiled again:

“‘Scuse me?”

She looked back — “Yes?” — and smiled.  (Damn:  That’s pretty!)

“Your tag’s sticking out,” I said, and without waiting for her to feel embarrassed, I reached for the back of her neck and fixed it.

In my car, I took a few bites of the food:  Not feeling it.  Jotted a few more “good things” down.  Started the car, pulled out, waited for all the pedestrians to cross.  (They tend to look so disoriented, in this city.)  Started driving, pulled over again.  Got out, grabbed my lunch; walked over to a man reading a newspaper in the bushes, with a nearby parked shopping cart.

“Hey, Keith,” I said.

Keith raised his face.  Sweat was dripping off his face and onto the newspaper.  He looked unusually bewildered.

“You want this?  I just bought it.  Not feeling it.”

I unloaded my hands into the shopping cart, and without waiting for him to feel embarrassed, got back into my car.

Three locks to get into my apartment:  One down, two to go.  Matching the keys to the keyholes, I was trying to keep myself upright.

“V!” a kid stormed out of his apartment down the hall.  He always storms out — out!  around! — and he speaks in exclamation points.  Already in the midst of some anecdote, as if we didn’t have a couple of days since seeing each other last, he was making me laugh.  But I was still playing the matching puzzle of the keys to the holes.

“Where are you going?!  What are you doing?!”

I laughed.  “I gotta do some work, silly goose.”  (In truth, I was just anxious to find the definition of “my goodness” — precisely, on the dot — on the screen of my laptop.)

“Well, lemme take a picture of you!”

“Sorry,” I said.  “I’m such a mess!”

“Nah!  You kidding!  I dig this whole look on you!” — and without waiting for me to feel embarrassed, out came the kid’s iPhone.

He stormed out.  I decoded my locks.  In the darkness of my apartment, while I was waiting on my laptop, the phone lit up with a text:

“…and you deserve all the best!  All the best!”

The kid.

I smiled.  

Experts say it takes extra muscles to smile — another degree of an effort, fully committed.  Willing.  

Kind of like “goodness”.  

Yes.