I Am Just

I am just a sad outsider

With my sad outsider art

I am just a graying sailor

Whose ship’s been torn apart

I am just that tinge of sad you feel

When your love lies sound asleep

I am just that piece of you you find

When you dig in darkness deep

I am just that dried piece of blood

From a wound so long ago

I am just that person who you find yourself to be

But who you don’t seem to know

So wrap you arms around me

Hold me close and tight

I am just what I am meant to be

So don’t try to fight

I am just that patch of ice you see

On the road way to late

I am just that boy who never showed up

And made you sit there and wait

I am just the bourbon on your father’s breath

Before the back of his hand

I am just the dark and cold places

A soldier kills in for his land

I am just all the things you know yourself to be

But next actually expect

I am just the thoughts of Jesus

Before the nails came and his body was wrecked

I am just the tank in Tiananmen

And the boy whose facing it down

I am just the friendly bartender

Filling the drunk’s glass without a sound

So wrap you arms around me

Hold me close and tight

I am just what I am meant to be

So don’t try to fight

I am just a sad outsider

With my sad outsider art

Gene G. McLaughlin 2013

Charleston Dancer

You were always so elegant

Moving in ways

That I could barely comprehend

That I could never hope to replicate

Always seeming to understand what movement

Meant what to who

I never knew the code

Knowing of the structures

Society and the latest dances

For my feet would never learn the steps

You made bowling seem like ballet

Conversation a form of art

You made banter seem like diplomacy

An actor always knows their part

The world you knew is gone now

Echoes now only remain

The song slowed ended

With the last fading refrain.

Mills Brothers no longer on the radio

A time I never knew

Murrow no longer on the radio

The war is finally through

Gene G. McLaughlin 2013

365 Playlists

Every day she used to go running.  It was never his thing, but she loved it and said it centered her.  He hadn’t paid much attention to the routine.  It all took place before he got out of bed each morning.  Each night she would head to bed and put her things out for her morning run.  Her shoes.  Her socks.  Her running shorts and the other clothes of the ensemble.  A hair tie.  Her earbuds.  Next to it she would sit her phone and charge it.  When he would go to bed he would see them sitting on the flat top of the chest before sleep.  It was difficult for him to sleep in the bed now.  He would try sometimes, but the emptiness of it when he entered the room was often too much.  The quiet of the room sounded like loss to him.  There was no sound of her breath and no rustle under the sheets as he got into bed.  Just quiet.

In the months after she died he had noticed the things she did and he never knew she did.  Cleaning spots of the toilet he didn’t know existed.  Buying spices he knew nothing of, but missed every time he made tomato sauce.  Paying bills that would come to services that were her domain.  As time went by the things that were missed became less.  He would check her email and get things in the mail occasionally, but eventually it was quiet.  It bothered him to have those things dwindle to an extent, but he knew that the ripples of her actions were fading from the world.  This was the way of things.  She would not be forgotten, but her movement was no more.  The kinetic of it was over.

One day he checked her email and received a notification that the credit card used for her Spotify subscription was expiring.  He had no idea what Spotify was, but he followed the link in the email.  A music subscription service.  He downloaded the application to look it at it and signed in under the password she always used for anything of this type.

He looked at the service.  Music of all types available to stream or download.  The profile was tied into her Facebook account and her sunny photo was there on display.  He smiled and felt the familiar taste of sadness and joy at seeing her alive with a digital glow.  It wasn’t something he had faced with the death of his father.  He had no digital version of his own to remain out there.  She was a women of the modern age though.

He clicked around a bit and noticed the section for playlists.  He clicked.  There were 365 playlists.  One for each day of the year and her morning runs.  He had a thought that seemed to be both corny and necessary.

The next day he got up early and listened to the playlist for that day and attempted to run.  He didn’t make it far, but he walked a bit.  The next day he did the same thing. It became a routine for him.  When he listened to the playlists he tried to read meaning into them or trace them back to things he knew.  He created narratives around some days and some days just seemed seasonal.  He had no idea of if Journey in April on the playlist mean what he attributed to it.  His mind drifted over thoughts of her and what she had done during these times and what had caused these songs on the playlist.  It entertained and intrigued his mind.

Eventually one day he sat outside bench outside his home after his run.  He was drenched with sweat and his mind was ruminating on what the playlist he listened to meant.  He was thirsty and arose and walked into his house and and into the kitchen.  He opened the cabinet for a clean glass and filled it with water.  He opened up the drawer he kept his keys in and went to put them in.  He noticed a small piece of paper sticking out of the back and picked it up.  It was an old picture of him and her.  He looked at it and memories of her came flooding back.  He realized he hadn’t thought about her in months.  Not really.  He had been creating someone else in his mind through these playlists all this time.  The playlists were a codex, a mystery, but most importantly not a person.  They were collections of songs.  That was all.  What he had been doing was a daydream to entertain.  Nothing more nothing less.  The person who he loved and shared his bed and life with was gone. He was building a MP3 version of her.  He decided he would keep up the running, but create his own playlist tomorrow.  He had the real her once.  Nothing else would do.

Gene G. McLaughlin 2013