The Angels Bowling

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When I was younger, I was afraid of thunder. The rain would pour down and I would cringe when I saw the flash because I knew what was coming next. There would be a slight crackle and then—in the space of a millisecond—there would be a great boom as if a cannon from the civil war had suddenly exploded into my small suburban home. I would scream and cry, but my mother would just smile. I would look into her eyes, see a reassuring twinkle, and I knew I was safe. “Don’t worry,” she would tell me. “Those are just the angels bowling.”

And then—everything would be fine again … until the next time.

I’m older now, but I still remember the image those words brought to my mind: it was a beautiful land made of clouds filled with gorgeous winged creatures who lined up to spin balls down an alley way of sky towards pins made of hydrogen; a magical place where only the good people got to bowl. Everyone else was in hell.

I sat watching news reports the other day of a distant place that could’ve been another planet. It was called Gaza. The woman on the news told me that the UN schools were being bombed and that children were dying. “International condemnation for Israel’s airstrikes reverberated throughout the world today …” the report would go. Then they would show pictures of children; children who were crying and who were covered in blood that may or may not have been theirs. I thought about the bombs and I remembered the thunder and lightning. I saw the children clinging to their mothers and wondered if they were told anything reassuring to comfort them? But most of those pictures didn’t have mothers and fathers who were alive. Instead, they had corpses—and, right beside them, were screaming children.

While the bombings continued, I wanted to reach through the T.V. and tell them, “Don’t worry, it’s just the angels bowling.” But I couldn’t because the TV did not have a device for communication to other parts of the world. It only reflected images of chaos and destruction so that people waking up with their morning coffee could be just horrified enough to have time to be sad for a minute then switch the channel to watch morning talk shows before forgetting the incident entirely.

But I never changed the channel. I knew that the story was depressing but I also knew it wasn’t uncommon. I knew that it was my good luck to be born in a country where things like that very rarely happened. I also knew that if I could do anything—for the sake of those children—it was to not switch off the channel. It was to absorb the misery and etch their faces into my memory. Because I knew that it wasn’t just the angels that were bowling over there—Satan himself was playing, and he was playing for keeps. But were the children old enough to be judged by God?

I hear the crackling of lightning and thunder, and I instinctively jump. My son comes in the room and I hastily switch off the TV. He looks at me with wonder and says, “Dad, why are you crying? It’s just the angels bowling.”

I grab him and hold on tight, wishing I never had to let go.

Picture in a frame

I look at her picture again. She was so beautiful to me back then. She is no longer beautiful to me now. She is just what she is: a picture in a frame. The dark-haired, blue eyed beauty I once loved unrequitedly no longer has that luster. Does that mean she changed? Or did I change somewhere along the way? Either way, I know things will never be the same.

I was in High School at the time. School had just gotten out and I was sitting on the park bench in the high school field, playing my guitar. I was playing Woody Guthrie because I still felt—even after all my troubles—that there was a better world a-coming. I’m still not sure how true that is.

I see her in the mustang. I didn’t know her name at the time. She knew mine though, and shouted it out from the passing convertible. I tried to smile, but couldn’t. I must have looked more like I was grimacing than anything else. Still, I hoped that things would change once I got out of there. I don’t know if it did though.
I walked on the side walk for less than two minutes and I saw that she had pulled over. She asked me if I wanted to go for a ride. I said sure. My heart was palpitating.

She was so beautiful back then. She had curly dark brown hair that went just above her shoulders, and she was wearing a peace symbol on her sweater. A peace symbol! I laughed aloud when I saw it. “What’s so funny?” she said to me.

I shrugged, but didn’t answer still laughing. She insisted I tell her, so I said, “I love the peace symbol. It reminds me of my old friend that passed away.”

She smiled too. “It reminds me of something similar, that’s why I like it.”

We took a ride, and everything was a blur. We talked about our homes, our town, our dreams, and our loves. I remember mentioning how she knew my name. She said she always knew me. Kate. Her name was Kate.

I guess I should’ve seen it coming, but in retrospect it seemed impossible at the time. Cocaine and heroin were something that felt unreal to me. I didn’t know that love could lose its luster with time but now I know. It’s a price—I suppose—we all must pay for it.

I found her one day with another man. An older man—maybe 40—and they were doing heroin. I let time pass, and eventually the feeling kind of dissipated. The older man died eventually. They called it an overdose. She called it a suicide. Truth be told, I knew not which one it was, but I knew that I would steal her away once more. But then she had another man. And another. And another. And finally she stopped talking to me altogether. It was at this point that I finally decided to move on with my life. Try to complete my dream of being a famous writer or novelist or journalist and lead the charge toward self-actualization.

So I thought at that time, but truthfully I never really understood what happened and why she never loved me. But I knew one thing: life wasn’t over just yet. Kate was great, but there would be others. And I hoped they would come as soon as possible.

Lustful dreaming, writing scheming

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The dancing girl swings her hips to the rhythm of modern pop while I watch from afar, unnoticed but intent on communication.

When I begin to walk over, I’m in ecstasy of her walk, her talk, her smile. That smile . . . it’s the kind of smile that any man would like to be shown, even on a bad day. Because when there is no hope, a smile like that, with eyes that laugh and penetrate, could make anyone think there was something better . . . just so long as that smile is for me.

When I said hello, she acknowledged me with a nod and disappeared into the darkness of Lady Gaga’s wailing. I wondered if it may have been different if I had said something besides ‘hello’ but without a contraption that would allow me to travel back to that moment of lustful purpose, I could only wonder.

And so it starts. . .endless beginnings of half-written sentences which swirl in my head like a psychotic washing machine who gave up trying to please the owners of the clothes it was destined forever to clean. The notebook, which I held once, is my last concrete dream I still keep. All the others have vanished.

The cigarette that I light burns a pleasant billow of smoke in my mouth. I exhale as if my life were dependent on the nicotine. I cough a little and spit out some tar wondering, as I always do when brown mucus spills from my mouth, why I do this. The answer lies somewhere back in high school when I was trying to fit in. It never worked, but I did gain some friends—good and bad—and I gained a few more and lost a few so I guess it evened out.

I try to move my pen in a pattern that creates words, but instead I doddle a picture of a man with glasses who stares angrily back at me from the lined paper. He knows who I am; perhaps he is the only one who does. I stare back at him as if in contest, but I lose when I see his image blur into a picture of someone I’ve lost. I close the book and throw it across the room. That’s when I decide that I’ve done enough writing for today.
I throw cold water on my face trying not to sulk, but give up when reality hits me—again. When I gave a shit before, I lost my mind. I decided, at that moment, to give up everything. I tried smoking away my emotions—didn’t work. So, in the end, I had to drink the whiskey. In the end, I had to pop that pill. And when it was all over, I breathed a sigh of relief as I drifted back to where I came from.

(by the way I know the image makes no sense with this, but I was too lazy to find something else.)

Love left on a train

The smell on her breath was whiskey and smoke. I pulled back from the kiss and gazed into her eyes, which looked at me with a mix of loving affection and terrible sadness. She turned away from me and boarded the train going toward Penn Station. I stood back and lit a cigarette. The train was soon gone, and I was alone on the platform looking across the street toward the Jewish temple which sat opposite the tracks.

The rain fell in tiny drops; smoothly and with minimal noise. Trying to keep my thoughts empty, I walked down from the platform and saw a bum sleeping on the bench. He was muttering something inaudible, but it sounded as if he was saying, “Never be another one. . .” It might have been my imagination though because I also had fairytale of New York stuck in my head, even though it was nowhere near Christmas.

I didn’t feel like going home. That was the last thing I wanted to do. I always wanted to keep on the move, stopping only to rest or eat, and then boarding the next train elsewhere. Instead, my only love was on that train and going back somewhere far away. I felt like a fool, a liar, and a coward. A fool for believing our love would always last, a liar for even thinking such thoughts, and a coward for not having the balls to board the train with her. In the end, I had made my choice and here it was: the small suburban town in which I was born and in which I will probably die.

The thought hit me like a stone from a slingshot. I doubled over, gasping for breath. This is not how I wanted things to be. What happened to the kid that swore up and down that he would get out of here and live his own life? What happened to those courageous words that he had said to others when he bragged about his guitar, his writing, his poetry, and his conviction? What happened to that guy? He was still here, but he was gone—gone like the love who boarded the train. I realized then that it wasn’t just a person who boarded the train, it was a feeling and it was gone.

Diary of Lauren Baskovitch Part 2

Dear Diary,

I think they took Ahmed away.

I haven’t seen him in class all week and I don’t think he’s sick. Yesterday, I watched the TV with Dad where these men in suits talked about ending the ‘terrorist problem’ and now he’s gone. Where did Ahmed go? When is he coming back? Why did they take him away? I want to do something but what can I do? I’m just a 12 year old girl. I have no power. I wish I was a wizard like Harry Potter who would protect the world from evil, and could’ve protected Ahmed. But I’m not. All I can do is cry.

I will let you know what happens.

Love,

Lauren Baskovitch

Diary of Lauren Baskovitch Part 1

Part 1 of at least 3

Dear diary,

I have a feeling we are going to be spending a lot more time together so let me introduce myself: I’m Lauren Bakovitch and I’m 12 years old.

I live in a small, boring town a little bit outside of New York City. I was given this diary by my uncle who says that it will take me places I never dreamed possible. I’m not sure exactly what it means, but I’m beginning to understanding a little more now that I’m starting to write. You see, I want to be a writer more than anything else. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be a great writer, haven’t not given it much thought in the past until I read Harry Potter. I guess that’s why I never considered a diary before, but it’s nice to have a place to put my thoughts and shelve them away somewhere for later use.

I met a boy named Ahmed today and had the most interesting conversation. He bought me a diet soda and said he wanted to travel the world and write. He wore glasses, but he was so nice. I would really like to hang out with him, but I don’t want to tell my parents because he’s Muslim.

You see—diary—I’m not prejudiced. It’s just that they are sending them away to internment camps. I don’t know if you have any knowledge of what lies beyond my own writing, but I’m just an ordinary girl who knows a little bit about the holocaust. Mr. McNalty was telling me the stories in class, about how this man named Hitler didn’t like certain kinds of people and tried to kill them all. But recently there was another terrorist attack. People are scared—so am I—but could fear drive us to make the same mistakes? I’m not sure.

My mom’s calling. I have to run.

Love,

Lauren Baskovitch

Cretin Heaven

The words left softly from the end of the stick. There was no honor in losing to the fools anymore. It had to end here.

Still, time moved on and nothing changed. When the Ramones played and the crowd started jumping, I fell back into the men’s room and did a line of redemption. Because the count was low and the par was high.

I needed what little bit of satisfaction only a power stimulant can give.

Then Social Distortion plays, and I’m trying to catch the eye of a pretty Sheena; a glorious tribute to curves and my mind’s perception of the truth–which was limited to the imagination.

I follow the crowd toward the stage and the world is spinning, just like Moses only with punk rockers and skinheads, and I drag my head around the unfortunate reality of my hopeless endeavor–spoken with enough verboseness to leave even the smallest bit of fortitude; my lack of will or understanding.

And the high permanently fades.

I’m floating down toward the last fragments of understanding. It ends just as it begins, with the Cretin Hop. I float on the crowd toward Cretin Heaven.