is irrelevant when considering time's precocious chokehold.
Productive culture is a thing of the past, a farce,
bullying those of us that prefer a tent to the sky. My sloth is
legendary among the passersby, and I need not an excuse for it.
Not one shred of courage does it take to produce
an army of puffed men morally obligated to occupy their hurried
lives, pursuing one folly after the next. They have the laborious
task of momentum, which is a horrible, gruesome thing. It catapults
the restless into unforeseeable walls, birthing scars that eventually
shade the conscious mind.
No, I have the courage of a true man. Not to boast,
but my stamina is unprecedented. I can endure weeks, even months,
of absolute nothingness.
In fact, these last few years have been my most
listless of all and I must confess that I am pleasantly unscathed.
I refuse to use the word "enlightened," simply because
that requires the task of thought. I do not feel the need to think
about how I have grown or overcome certain obstacles. I do not
need to dwell on my misfortunes or my so-called glory days. I
am the here and this is the now.
My dreams in the oversleep offset the sanest sunlight-swirling
captions of the have and have not. I indelibly confess that they
are my softest hours and within them I wake reluctantly each day.
That is neither fault nor direction, just a satisfactory feeling
I get from sleep.
Mornings are relative. They are a period of first
development. It is presumptuous to believe that this must always
occur in the a.m., when the dew is fresh on the ground and tiny
birds whistle away.
People occasionally say to me, "But don't you
miss the mornings?"
I do not know how to miss something that has never
This morning I awoke to the sun at center stage,
pouring its arrogant dance through my window. It was hard not
to resent something that needed so much attention. I was still
trying to tie the delicate strands of my dreams together: the
ocean scene with the dancing seaweed, and then those telephone
lines just crashing like that and sinking into the earth.
There is futility in abstraction. I stumbled out
of bed and headed towards the bathroom and immediately turned
the "hot" knob full tilt in the shower. Steam thickened
the room. The running water delivered a static to my ears as my
mind cleared within its hiss.
Maps were divined, ideas reminded. It is the catalyst
of my peace movement.
My priorities were kept to a minimum. I was able
to ponder the fate of the Milky Way and still make it to work
on time. Rarely was I under the grip of the "claws of anxiety."
"Them are like an eagle's talons," my
grandad would say. "They just dig further and further in,
and then carry you away to someplace you don't even want to be."
I was right where I wanted to be, home, half asleep
and sitting on my toilet listening to the dynamic fuzz of urban
water crashing out of an antique shower head. Although my living
space is about the size of a generous master bedroom, I was rather
"Happiness is a bony specimen, it always needs
nourishment, and don't be ashamed, boy; masturbation is indeed
I stood up to clear the fog off of my bathroom mirror
with the back of my hand. I stared back at myself for the brief
moment it allowed. There were no revelations to be found. I noticed
no significant creases or marks of aging. Although I approach
30, the so-called inevitable weight of gravity had not yet begun
its march down the alleys of my face.
I attribute this phenomenon to two things, the first
being my affection with sleep. I can easily nap away 12 hours
of the day without experiencing a sense of guilt or lethargy.
The second is my ability to tune out stress. Stress is usually
the result of pettiness, and I try to absolve myself from that
Although the condensation had resumed its cloth-like
effect, I still stood there just thinking while staring at the
block of haze before me. My thoughts began to travel back to my
childhood, toward the embellishments. Each of us is sculpted from
dying hands and the circumstances that lead us to our excuses
are now but mere reflections of fate. My secrets are defenseless,
my memories fine-tuned so that my dictation does not crumble upon
Growing up, I had a friend named Eddie, who was
obsessed with his baseball card collection.
It was his distraction, a way for him to dissolve,
to hide from the ubiquitous shadow of his father. He was kind
to his cards. Tiny plastic folders protected each one, whether
it was an M.V.P or a future minor leaguer.
Every cent was spent on baseball cards. He collected
bottles, mowed lawns, sold lemonade. He even made a miniature
baseball diamond with real dirt and stadium lights of aluminum
foil and would charge ten cents admission to see a game in which
he painted jerseys on tiny plastic army men and made them swing
bayonets at an imaginary ball.
"I'm one Johnny Bench and a Steve Garvey away
from a set." Eddie would say to me as if the discovery of
those two cards would make his young life complete.
"Insignificant." My grandad taught me
that word when I brought home my first report card.
"Insi-what?" Eddie started to ask before
"No, listen," he began again. "I
heard Topps does that. They make some players really hard to find.
My friend Daniel, who actually has this year's Johnny Bench, said
there's only three of them out there, and two of them are in Ohio
and the reason they're in Ohio is because the Reds are from there.
I can't believe that. That is so lame. So now I have to trade
with him if I want to make a set and I'm sure he is gonna want
something big time."
"I'm going home," I said.
"Hey, guess what."
"What?" I asked, uninterested.
"I have a friend whose uncle lives somewhere
in Cleveland. That's in Ohio, right?" he asked in his high-pitched
"Is it the capital? Anyway, my parents only
give me $5 every two weeks and that only buys about eight packs
of cards. I asked Ted, you know Ted, he's Jimmy's older brother.
Well, I asked him if he would buy me as many packs of Topps as
he could when he goes and sees his uncle. I figure if I even have
a chance at getting a Johnny Bench, then I have to give him at
least 30 dollars. He's leaving in four days. I need that card.
Daniel wanted my Mickey Mantle rookie card that my dad gave me.
He would kill me if I traded that card."
Eddie had it all worked out. I was staring down
at my bare feet wondering how long I could stand the heat of the
"What?" he asked anxiously, his eyes bouncing
back and forth like a sugar-induced pinball machine. You could
tell just by looking that Eddie had issues.
"I didn't say anything."
"Oh. Hey, if you know anybody that has this
year's Garvey, tell me, okay?"
"I will," I said, leaving Eddie to his
own devices. "If I come across one I'll be sure to tell ya."
As it turned out, his friend came back with half the cards Eddie
expected, and a new pair of sunglasses. The friend said that Topps
were twice as expensive in Ohio because the Indians were so bad.
And after ripping open each pack to find only the familiar faces
of sub-par players, Eddie went home in despair.
He began losing sleep over the idea of never having
a complete set.
I went to visit Eddie one day a few weeks after
that encounter. He answered the door in his Dodger pajamas. I
immediately noticed that something was swollen about his center
"What's up, Eddie? Wanna go over to the lake?
I'm walking over to my grandad's to get some cane poles and earthworms."
"Not today. I feel like staying home. Guess
"Daniel is such a sucker," Eddie confided.
"Hey -- you didn't find a Garvey card yet did you?"
"Not yet; haven't found one yet. So, you been
okay? I mean, it's been awhile since I've seen you out."
He looked away nervously, sort of digging his fingernails
into the side of his head.
"Yeah," he said after a serious pause.
"Well, I've been having weird dreams, you know? Like, don't
laugh, okay? But I keep having this dream that the card, the Johnny
Bench card, is almost within my reach, and then a big, strong
burst of wind blows it away. I chase after it for what seems like
forever and right when I realize that the card is far gone, floating
in the clouds, my wiener sort of gets itchy. It starts itching
so bad, like the worst itch ever, and right when I go to scratch
it, it just falls off. It falls off! The next thing I know is
it grows these two weird purplish wings and just flies away in
the sky right next to the Johnny Bench card and then Johnny Bench
starts laughing and pointing his finger at me and my wiener starts
laughing too and it laughs so hard that it starts to pee from
the sky and the next thing I know is I wake up and my bed is all
I couldn't help but laugh a bit. It was an immediate
reaction. Kids laugh at the word "wiener," and besides,
I felt a little awkward receiving the information.
"Don't tell anyone or I'll kill you,"
Eddie said. "It's not funny, and I've been wearing a cup
for a week because I want to catch the thing if it does actually
fall off while I'm sleeping. This is really scary. I can't tell
my dad because he'll think I'm queer or something. And besides,
I don't want him to find out about the trade."
I had all kinds of strange imagery floating in my
head that kept reeling round and round.
"I had to do it," he confessed. "I
mean, I had to. I traded the Mickey Mantle for the Johnny Bench."
I cut the tape in my head when I noticed that Eddie
had begun crying. I knew why he was so distraught. Eddie's father
had quite the temper. If he ever found out that Eddie really was
the stupid little shit he'd been calling him all these years,
then poor Eddie might end up with a whole new battalion of scars.
Eddie's father, a large man who liked to work with
his hands, had a stubborn affection for old things and never acknowledged
anything that didn't exist back in his day. He coached his son's
Little League team, the Eastside Mechanics -- named after his
small garage on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. He was adamant about
what he called a "pure swing" and wooden bats.
"There's no damn aluminum on my team,"
he would say proudly and often.
He was tough on Eddie, relentlessly tough. And Eddie,
fearful towards his father, became one of the better hitters on
the team. His father would always boast about his son's future
in the big leagues, saying how his swing was not unlike the great
"Son," his father would preach, "you
have to keep your elbows up, feet planted, be ready."
One day, Eddie had a particularly bad game with
the bat. His father considered this a public embarrassment and
demanded an explanation at the supper table.
"It's like you forgot everything I taught ya.
Your swing is rigid like one of these robots they're making these
days. There'll never be a first-place team of robots, boy. You
can take that to your grave."
"Honey," Eddie's mother chimed in, passing
the potatoes, "leave him be. I'm sure he already feels bad
"Son, go get that Mantle card I gave ya and
we can see what a pure swing is all about." A large piece
of gristle stuck between Eddie's father's gray teeth. "The
Mick is Mr. Baseball, ya know. Maybe just the sight of Mick's
cherry-blossom smile will stop your slump. Go get that card, boy,
we need good old Mick to help us out of this jam."
Eddie looked into the big, blue eyes of his mother.
"Well, honey," she smiled back with a
lemonade voice. "Go get that card for your father. Maybe
it will help. You never know."
Eddie's heart dropped.
He thought about running, a straight sprint to the
door. He tried to stall, a tactic poorly designed for kids like
"Yeah, Mantle's great, dad. But what about
Johnny Bench? He might help. I mean, he's a good player."
"Bench? You're comparing Johnny Bench to the
great Mickey Mantle?"
"No, dad, not really. My room's a mess, though.
It'll take awhile to find it."
Tiny beads of sweat trickled down Eddie's slight
"Well, you better find it, boy. Now go! Me
and your mother will sit here and wait."
Eddie ended up locking himself inside his bedroom.
He coughed up his confession on a piece of paper and slid it under
the crack of the door.
Eddie's father waited long enough and walked straight
to Eddie's bedroom, banged on the door and bellowed, "Boy,
come on now. Where is that Mantle? You better hope to criminy
you didn't lose that card. That would be a mighty mistake."
"It's there. Under the door. I slid it under
Eddie was perched up beside an open window, just
in case his father happened to kick down the door with his big,
"You traded what! You little shit-bag! You
little piece of weed, I'll kill ya! Let me in so I can kill ya!
For a freakin' Bench! You dumb little shit. Let me in, boy."
Eddie's father pounded relentlessly on the door
until Eddie's mother came by to suggest that the neighbors would
call the police again.
"You better stay in there, boy," Eddie's
father warned, "all summer and all winter. Next time I see
ya, your twerpy body better be decomposed."
Eddie stayed in his room all summer. I would occasionally
walk by his window, where I'd see him staring listlessly at the
tall palm tree that stood in his front yard. I would wave, and
sometimes he would wave back. Sometimes he wouldn't.
One day, while he watched some kids play stickball,
Daniel and I happened to walk by. We couldn't help notice Eddie's
pale, yearning eyes. He looked sick, less alive then the kid we
"Hey," said Daniel, "I hear you're
holed up for awhile. Sure miss trading cards with ya."
"Come here," Eddie snapped through the
"What? I'm in a hurry."
"I'll trade ya my whole set of this year's
cards for that Mantle back."
"No way, dude. That Mantle is a hard card to
find. My dad said that if I hold on to it, it might get me through
"Aw, come on. I'll give you last year's set,
too. Two sets, Daniel."
"Did you ever get the Garvey for this year's?"
"Well, then it's an incomplete set, isn't it."
"Please. I need that card back. My dad wants
to kill me."
"What else is new?"
"Please, I'll give you my Atari, too."
Daniel's eyes lit up. He was a sucker for Space
"I don't know," Daniel said, as if still
reluctant about the deal.
"Come on. You always say how you wish your
mom would buy you an Atari."
"Yeah, but this is a rare card. I wouldn't
just trade it for anything."
"Come on, Daniel. I'll tell Jimmy that you
have a crush on his sister."
"I don't even like Elaine."
"Jimmy'll beat you up good. He owes me a favor
anyway, because I mowed his grandmother's lawn for free."
"I don't have a crush on Elaine."
"Well, trade or no trade?"
"Okay, okay. But I don't have a crush on Elaine."
"Whatever." A big, gracious smile came
Which is how I remember him after all these years
-- with a big, gracious smile. I sat back down on the toilet,
thinking about Eddie.
Rumor was that, about five years later, he ended
up trading the Mantle card he so painstakingly got back -- for
a quarter sack of brown Mexican weed and a lava lamp.
I thought about reasons. Everybody has a reason.
There is a reason for my sloth, but just how deep and tangled
it is may fall into the category of speculation and I don't have
time to grab at ghosts. Last I heard, Eddie was a queen living
in San Francisco. I imagined him in a pretty blue dress and high
heels, makeup running down his worried face. Older men would stare
at him in silent disgust.
"Who is that?" they'd wonder. "That
certainly isn't my son." And the women all know he's not
a woman and they scoff at him for even trying. His thick hands
are wrapped around himself like a curious lover.
"Hugs, kid," my grandad would say. "There
are different ones for different people. We all fall into one
another sooner or later."
Later, grandad got into handshakes. He said they
were just a hug of the hands.
My daydreaming began to wash away the time. I decided
to proceed from my foggy notions and continue to the next movement.
Usually, I let the hot water cool to a frigid room
temperature, and it is then I reluctantly emerge from my think
tank. Today, though, had a sense of anticipation attached for
some unexplainable reason. The sun was out for the first time
in weeks, and although it is the evenings I enjoy, I decided I
would take an out-of-character stroll through town before work.
I stood up and turned the knob counter-clockwise.
The water retreated, revealing many other layers of the morning.
It is the bottom layer I think I appreciate most. It suffers the
weight of the world without relinquishing its beauty; without
knowing how beautiful it actually is.