Moonlight

The moon is so full and bright that its beauty could bring tears to my eyes.

 

But I can’t see it, because I’m running through the woods. A dense forest of oak towering over me blocks out nearly all moonlight, making my run harder than expected. Trees rise to my left and right with their twigs sticking out to surprise me every couple of feet. They mostly hit my legs, but there’s an occasional slap to the chest or arm. The trail itself is rocky and full of holes, causing my pace to be dictated by how often I twist my ankles.

 

Thankfully, the person running in front of me is providing some guidance. I don’t know who he is, but he’s been running in front of me the entire time I’ve been running. I can’t seem to catch him, though I want to. I trust that he knows where he’s going, so I’ve been following him through the darkness.

 

Every time I speed up, he speeds up as well. When I slow down, I feel him pulling away, and I get nervous. I don’t want to fall too far behind, not able to follow him through the woods, because I don’t know that I’ll be able to find my way back home.

 

I start to get tired. And with my exhaustion comes skepticism. Does he know where he’s going? A small ray of moonlight shines through the trees. How do I know he’s taking me in the right direction?
 
I cross into a small clearing and am drowned in moonlight. The stranger ahead has already crossed back into the darkness. I pause briefly in the clearing and reconsider my options. Should I keep following him? There’s got to be another trail I can take. One I would enjoy more than this. Isn’t this my run, not his?

 

But I’m lost. I don’t know where to go from here. I know which way he went, and he’s got to know where he’s going. So I hop onto my right foot and continue through the forest, chasing after the stranger.

 

Back into the darkness, I’m running faster than before. I’m not worried about the bumps and twigs and rocks. I need to catch up so I an figure out where he’s taking me. He’s still ahead of me, running unimpeded. Each twist of my ankle motivates me to move faster.

 

As moonlight penetrates the trees, I see him up ahead. I run faster, this time faster than he’s running. I have to get there. I have to to know who he is, where he’s taking me. As I get closer I realize we’re wearing the same shoes, same shirt, same outfit altogether. He’s just feet away from me now. I stumble over a rock and let out a yelp as my knee hits the ground. If he hears me, he shows no response.

 

I look at my knee and see that it’s bleeding. I can’t stop, not when I’m this close. The moonlight speckles along the ground. The once dark path starts to become navigable. I look up and see him farther ahead. I wipe the blood off of my knee and take stride once again. I look down, able to dodge the rocks and holes and twigs that once impeded my path. I gain on him quickly. He looks so familiar.

 

I’m within three feet of him. Two feet. He still shows no sign of acknowledging that I’m there. I shift over to the left of him, aiming to pass. The moonlight now lights up enough trail to see several feet in front of me.

 

He’s to my right. I’m a half step behind him. I’m confident that I can make the pass now that the trail is lit brightly. But I can’t pass without looking at him, without knowing who this person is. I’m directly to his left. We’re matching stride for stride. Left, right. Left, right. I take my eyes off the trail and look to my right. He turns his head left, finally acknowledging my presence.

 

I recognize this man. His height, his weight, his hair. I stare at a reflection of myself. A terrifying reflection.

 

No eyes. No mouth. No nose or ears. He cannot make a sound, take a breath, see for himself. He cannot think nor feel. He runs blindly through the woods. His hands shake.

 

I stare at this creature – at myself – and do not feel scared. I do not feel angry nor confused. Rather, I feel sad. He doesn’t know where he’s going, what he’s doing. He’s running the trail because he knows nothing else. He cannot smell the forest, hear the wind swaying the trees, see the moonlight shining through the darkness.

 

I know he can sense me. His head is still turned towards me. I cannot look at this monstrosity any longer. I must go. I turn back to face forward, trying to block what I’ve seen out of my mind.

 

I run fast. Faster than I’ve ever run before. I hear him pick up speed. I feel him at my back, refusing to let me go ahead of him. I cannot let him do this. I sprint as hard as I can towards the edge of the woods. Fifty feet away, I see the last line of trees – the edge of the woods. I must get there before he drags me back into the forest.

 

Faster now. His feet pound the trail as hard as mine. I breathe heavily, sweat running down the side of my face, eyes laser focused on the forest edge. He’s silent, but he’s there. Twenty feet away. I feel his fingertips on brush my right shoulder as he snags a piece of my shirt. I twitch my shoulder forward and loosen my shirt from his grip. Ten feet. My heart races. Five feet. I feel both his hands on my shoulders now, trying to pull me back. Three feet. I’m stretching for the forest edge. His fingers dig into my collarbones. One foot.

 

I throw myself across the forest edge and into the moonlight. I feel his fingers release from my shoulders and disappear. Before me is a field so wide I cannot see the other side. The moon lights up the entire clearing so I can see the blades of grass ahead of me swaying in the wind.

 

I know the person chasing me has not followed me into the field. I don’t turn my head to see what’s happened to him. It does not matter. I look up at the moon so bright, so full in the clear night sky, and vow never to let him catch me, to never go back into those woods again.

 

I continue to run as fast as I can. I do not know where this field ends, nor what lies on the other side, but I know that I’m choosing to run through it on my own.

 

A smile finds my face. I sigh heavily. I look up to the moon.

 

A tear rolls down my face.

 

Left, right. Left, right.

Wealth (n.)

I need to make more money.

You’re a liar if you say you’ve never thought it. Money is important to us. What does money bring? Wealth, of course. If you’ve got money, you’re wealthy. It’s what we’ve been told for ages.

So I set out to make some money. I was poor in New York. I hated it. I couldn’t go out. I couldn’t eat at restaurants. I couldn’t see a movie in theaters. I needed to make money. I needed to be wealthy.

I packed up and moved across the country. I took a job in San Francisco. I’m gonna make more here than I have anywhere else. I’ll be wealthy, finally. I’ll be able to do stuff. Fun stuff. 

I worked hard from day one and it paid off. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a ton of money. But it was the first time I was about to live comfortably. The first time I wasn’t barely scraping by. I could go to the bar and buy a round. I could grab take out on my way home for myself and my roommates. It was wonderful. I felt happy. I felt wealthy.

I put my cash into savings. Towards my loans. Towards bar tabs and trips and concerts and clothing. I made a bunch of friends. Friends who also made money. It was life changing.

Two months later I got laid off.

Wealth (n.): abundance of valuable material possessions or resources.

Synonyms: affluence, prosperity, riches, means, substance, fortune.

Can you use it in a sentence please? 

“Some people buy boats and cars to display their wealth.”

Do you have a alternate sentence?

“He used his wealth to bribe officials.”

So what is wealth? Wealth is money. Wealth is power. Wealth is material.

Holy shit. I’m unemployed. I’m embarrassed. What will my family think? Friends? What will new people I meet think? Holy shit.

I started questioning myself. Am I not valuable? I’ve had three jobs within two years of graduating college. Will I ever get where I want to be? Am I a freeloader? Lazy? Worthless? Will I ever achieve what I’m looking for? Why can’t I figure out my career?

What am I supposed to do? I have no money coming in. The happiness and joy I felt – will that be gone?

I disagree with Merriam and Webster’s definition. How can something that leaves you unfulfilled and wanting more ever make you feel wealthy? Ask someone with money if they want more money, they’ll say yes. More power? Yes. More things? Yes.

“Hey dude. I don’t know what to say :( I’m sorry”
“I miss you”
“Wow. You ok?”
“How you doing buddy? I’m so sorry.”
“Miss you, dude. Not the same without you here.”
“Sigh. So so so freakin’ sad that you are gone from this office.”
“You are amazing. I’m not being sarcastic.”
“I miss you! Can we please stay best friends?”
I responded to the texts and emails that rolled in as the news spread across the company.

“Thanks. I’m ok.”
“I already miss you too.”
“I’ll be fine.”
“I’d love if you could help me find something new.”
“It’s fine, really. I’ll miss you guys the more than anything.”
“Really, don’t worry about me. I’ll be ok.”

I started getting a good feeling again. The feeling I had before, when I still had my job. That happiness, joy. These people truly care about me.

The idea of wealth is skewed. Wealth is not money. Wealth is not power. Wealth is not status or title or whose name you can drop.

Wealth is loving and being loved in return. Wealth is having deep and meaningful relationships. Wealth is surrounding yourself with the people that are important to you and never taking it for granted.

“If you add a little lemon juice to the Brussels sprouts it’ll bring out their flavor more,” my roommate told us.

“I’ll start the spaghetti,” another mentioned.

“Don’t strain yourself boiling that water,” I harassed while I mixed together the ingredients for the meatballs.

“I’m out of wine!” a third roommate yelled from the living room. We opened a second bottle and poured ourselves new glasses.

Thirty minutes later we filled our plates and the seven of us crammed into the living room to eat and watch How To Train Your Dragon. I took a spot on the floor and put my plate of spaghetti and meatballs on top of a Rubbermaid container. We turned off the lights and let the show begin.

When I finished eating, I leaned my back against the arm of the couch. I thought back to the texts I’d received the day before from the heavy hearts of my former coworkers. I thought about my family’s support when I told them I might take a little time to myself to figure out what to do next. I thought about my friends’ well wishes and genuine interest in helping me find a new job. I thought about the last thirty minutes I spent cooking and joking with buddies I made just a month earlier.

I closed my eyes, laid my head back against the couch, and smiled. No amount of money could make me feel as wealthy as I felt in that moment.

Beware of the girl in the large headphones.

It was such a long day that I thought that my eyeballs would fall out. I could have fallen asleep standing right there, on the train. The L wasn’t packed yet, but we were only at 6th Ave. I stood in my normal spot, back to the doors. I had my headphones plugged into my phone and searched for something to fit my mood. I couldn’t find anything for “underpaid and lonely” so I went with St. Lucia instead. I tucked my phone into my peacoat pocket and leaned my head back against the doors as we traveled through the tunnels.

Those of us on the train minded our own business, as always. A man sitting beside me was reading a Chinese newspaper with a picture of the Malaysian Airlines flight that had been missing for two weeks now. A woman held her child’s arm while he tried to climb on the seats and poles around him. He was the type of kid that kicks the back of your seat in movies even after you tell him to stop three times and bribe him with the remainder of your Sno-Caps.

A girl stood against the door opposite me. Her cat eye glasses would have made her face look angular and thin if it weren’t for the basketball sized headphones she wore over her head. I stared at them wondering if the upgrade in music quality was worth the constant fear of tipping over. I wonder if she has to do neck stretches before putting those on?

She stared at her phone intensely. On her back was a black backpack. As I looked closer, I realized it was no ordinary backpack, but a square. There were four distinct corners on each side that formed a picture frame around her torso. I decided I didn’t like this girl.

As the train pulled into Union Square it was apparent that the we were about to mobbed my other commuters. I turned my body sideways so people could enter and leave without having to sacrifice my primo spot. When the doors opened, the alien in a picture frame started to walk towards me to get off the train. As she passed, my headphones cord got snagged by one of the corners on her absurd backpack. I felt my headphones tug in my ears. I yelled out to get her attention, but she couldn’t hear me through her noise canceling turtle shell speakers.

I started to sweat. As she moved, she dragged my phone out of my pocket. My headphones got extremely tight in my ears. I looked down and saw that it was dangling directly over the gap between the train and the platform. My headphones cord created a right angle from my ears to her backpack, backpack to my phone. The only thing keeping my one true love from death and destruction was the sack from LL Bean’s grotesque stepsister.

I yelled again but she couldn’t hear me. She didn’t know that her backpack was now my personal torture device and that the fate of my bank account relied on her stopping her exit from the train. I enter full panic mode. I can’t stop her, I can’t reach my phone, and people are starting to funnel in the car. I’m screaming bloody murder at this woman who I hate as my lifeline to the world dangles closer and closer to falling into the abyss.

Everything starts moving in slow motion. The cord slips to the corner of her picture frame death bag. I’m counting down the seconds to impact as commuters are entering the train on the other side of her. Three – the cord is a half inch from falling. Two – my heart races while I think about the flip phone I’m going to have to use as a replacement. One – the cord slips off and my phone is in free fall.

Suddenly, right before I dive to the ground and in what only be described as divine intervention, a girl entering the train sees my panicked face and snatches my phone out of midair. Without breaking stride, she hands it to me and walks to the opposite side of the train.

Relief sweeps over me as I laugh hysterically in happiness. “THANK YOU HAHAHA OH MY GOD THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!” I maniacally yell at her. I wave frantically at her so she’ll understand my elation. I want to run up and kiss her right on the mouth. “THANK YOU SO MUCH” I yell again.

She can’t hear me, though, because she’s wearing gigantic headphones.

Why can’t I think of anything to write?

I have no idea. I love writing, but sometimes I can’t get anything on the page. Is it because my life is boring right now? I don’t think so. I mean, maybe in this exact instant, yes, because I’m staring at an empty page and nothing is coming to my brain. But overall? No way. I just moved to San Francisco less than a month ago. A move across the country is huge. Super hard, actually. My parents were both crying. I haven’t seen my dad cry in years. I’ve seen my mom cry before. That’s actually super common. She’s emotional. So I guess I could write about my move? I don’t know though, I’ve done that before. I wrote about moving away from Pittsburgh. I wrote about moving into New York. I wrote about the “move” to and from LA for, like, 6 months. I guess that was more of a road trip though, not really a move. Wow I’ve moved a lot since college ended. To LA. Back home. Back to Pittsburgh. To New York. To San Francisco. And those are just cities. I’ve been in one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight different apartments or houses in two years. Roughly a new place to live every 3 months. I actually can’t remember the last time I signed a lease. Pittsburgh I guess. Weird.

But anyway, yea, I’ve written about moving. Can’t do that again.

Have I had any crazy enlightenments recently? I guess kind of. I’ve realized how important money is until you have enough to support yourself, and then how unimportant it is after that. I guess that’s big. Like, I could barely survive without my parents’ help when I lived in New York. So that blew. Now that I can support myself, I’m totally taken aback about how little I think about it. That makes me sound douchey and rich. I’m not either of those things. Now instead of “how am I going to pay for dinner with my friends tonight?” I ask myself “what could I have done to be more engaging at dinner tonight?” which stresses me out even more than not being able to pay. Once you figure out you’re able to afford it, the stress of payment is gone. But being more present and engaging? That’s a whole new beast. That doesn’t get solved in one dinner. That takes TIME. And practice. So yea I guess stressors that come after basic needs are filled is something I’ve been been “enlightened” about recently.

Still though, if I write about that, I’ll probably come off as preachy and on some type of high horse. Don’t wanna do that. My friends/family/readers would probably say stuff about me that I don’t like. And I love those guys. Why would I want to put a sour taste in their mouths?

I mean, I guess the best writers are the ones that make you think. They’re the ones that take really strong stances on something so that they polarize groups of people. They make you fiercely agree or fiercely disagree. Then you talk about it. And them. Then those writers get popular and famous and successful and then they keep churning out more and more until they’re widely known and people love/hate them. All the while getting their ideas out to the world.

THEN when they die they’re immortalized as some of the best in the world. I wonder if that’s why so many writers are suicidal? Artists in general, actually. I mean, I get it, it makes a statement if you off yourself before you’re famous. Then people will be like “shit well I wonder what he/she was writing/sculpting/filming/singing/painting/preaching about before he/she died?” Then the artist’s work gets noticed, and sometimes they get really famous because “woah they were really good, such a shame they’re dead.” So the road to success is through creating stuff and then dying before anyone sees/reads/listens to it?

Meh. No thanks. I like my heartbeat. Plus, that’s a super depressing thing to write about. People don’t want to read about that. I just read an article that said writing that’s evokes awe, entertainment, or laughter gets shared the most. Should I write something funny?

I’m pretty funny. I mean I like to think I am. And if I’m not convinced I’m funny, no one else will think I’m funny. So if I write something funny it’s two-fold: people will be entertained and hopefully LOL at my work and share it, AND they’ll think I’m as funny as I think I am. Win win, right? Yea I should write something funny. Something light, you know? There are so many dense articles out there that people get bogged down with. Something funny would be a nice reprieve from that.

So what’s something funny that I could write about? Should I take something that happened to me recently and make it funny? Or I could take a situation in general that I think is funny and write about it? Like guys who text at the urinal. What the hell? I have so many questions for those men. Particularly:
1. How are you not peeing on yourself?
2. What is so important that you need to check it out at this exact moment while you pee?
3. Does this bring a new level of urinal etiquette that we, as men, need to address? For example, if you choose the urinal beside directly beside me when one two urinals down was open, but you’re texting, does that make it OK?
4. Again, how are you not peeing on yourself?
5. What happens if you drop your phone? Do you put it in rice? That would be so gross – pee soaked rice. Oh but that’d be funny if you hated your roommate and added it to the rice that he already has cooked. Note to self: monitor rice.

I could also just write funny one liners on Twitter for the next couple minutes. I think that’d be good, right? No, probably not actually. I need to write seriously, not in 140 characters or less. That’s just a cop out for writing.

Man this is frustrating. How am I supposed to be funny when I’m frustrated? That’s like…that’s like trying to open a jar with greasy hands. No that doesn’t make sense. Basically it’s hard to do that. And the more frustrated I get, the more I think my writing isn’t funny, which leads to writing some BS post about why I can’t write right now.

I guess I’ll just table this until next week. Something good should happen by then.

To my closest friend:

I’m writing you this letter because I’m dead.

Well, that’s not true. I’m dying. Really fast. I’ll be dead soon. I’m never leaving this hospital. At least not until I’m dead. Which, thanks to this meningitis, will be soon.

I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you. I did it on purpose. No, not die. I didn’t tell you on purpose. It’s nothing against you, I swear. It’s just that I didn’t want you to feel sad. You’re someone I cherish, and seeing you be sad would make me sad. I don’t want to be sad before I die.

So don’t be sad. I’m not. People keep coming to visit and saying things like “I’m so sorry” and “I can’t believe this is happening” and “but you’re only 23!” and other things that I don’t want to hear. Listen, I get it, I’m dying. They don’t have to remind me of that. Every conversation I have is full of apologies and tears and goodbyes. I don’t want my last conversation with you to be like that too. You’re my best friend, and I don’t want our last moments to be our worst.

We’ve had so many good memories. I want them to be what you remember me by. Not me now. Decrepit, weak. No, I want you to remember that time we belted out Don’t Stop Believin’ at karaoke. Or the time we drank beers in the park and watched all the frisbee players toss their discs back and forth, seeing who can throw it the hardest, farthest. I want you to remember me by the time we drove all the way to Nebraska to go camping only realize we forgot our gear. The good times. That’s how I want you to remember me. Not like this.

And don’t think that because I’m dying young I’m missing out on life. It couldn’t be farther from the truth. I’ve had a wonderful life. Sure, I won’t be able to have children. Or even get married for that matter. But I’m ok with that.

I have no regrets. I realize now, with my fate looming over me, that I don’t regret the hour I spent aimlessly wandering through the park when I told myself I should be working. I don’t regret letting myself cry when I felt sad. I don’t regret leaving that one job too early or never running a marathon. I don’t regret that I never understood quantum physics, and that I lost touch with my childhood friends. I don’t regret eating that pint of ice cream, and then following it up with Oreos. I don’t regret that C I got in high school or the performance I bombed in college. I thought I’d regret these things. But I don’t. I don’t at all.

Why? You see, I didn’t do those things because I was busy doing other things. Like going to happy hour with you. Or watching that crappy TV show that I know is terrible for my brain but that I love so much. I was listening to music that made me feel good while I walked through the streets of the city. I was taking the long way home so I could see the old building that once was my high school. I was living the dream. My dream.

Why am I so nonchalant about my death sentence? Because every moment I’ve had is vastly more important than what’s happening to me. My death was inevitable, albeit early. But it takes nothing away from the path I’ve laid behind me. I’m proud of my life. Every moment I’ve had has been incredible. I lived it as fully as I could. I’ve lived it more fully than so many other people – the people who dwell on the past or the future, but never the now.

Remember that now exists. It’s the most important thing I have to say to you as I lie here, ready to rest my eyes. The future is unreachable. The past is unchangeable. But now – now is real. Now is what makes us feel alive. Now creates the past we cherish in the future. Now is spontaneous and scary and thrilling and every range of emotion imaginable all squeezed into a singular marble of time that can easily be lost if you’re not careful.

What I’m trying to say to you, my friend, is that we’ve had a good run. Now it’s up to you to keep going hard and strong. Don’t dwell too long on your past or stress too much about your future. Focus on your now.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to quiet down. I hope you’re not mad, but I need to keep some strength just for me. You see, I have one more moment I need to feel – only a little bit of now left. Who would I be if I missed it because I was dwelling on the past?

Love always,