“Sometimes, it is more painful to dream, more disheartening to hope, more demoralizing to imagine.
it is easier to open your eyes and never sleep,
sleep but never dream,
grow up and never look back.”
The mission is over, but one mission just un-dramatically bleeds into the next, much like how our days pass here.
The journey has been taxing, and it is no simple sluggishness to sleep off, but an insomnia of both flesh and spirit. A monster of its own nature.
The Kid is alive, but he is losing his magic.
The reverie – it has been too long.
The Kid needs to return to his sanctuary of wonder soon, lest his world loses its color and becomes gray again.
“I just wanna be somebody.”
I just wanna be… a rockstar. No, too ambitious. Maybe a low-key SoundCloud artist that only true hiphop heads know.
15 – 20k followers.
Mmm… 5 – 10k.
If only somebody would notice. Look my way.
I am so close, yet so far. Talented, but not quite enough.
I walk across the platform to the edge, past the yellow paint and caution signs. I stare into the gaping darkness ahead of me. I think of jumping. Just fantasize the idea.
Where am I going?
I am here, just waiting. Too much waiting.
Then the wind picks up and I hear a distant howling in the tunnel in front of me. It picks up and the howling becomes metallic, growing louder and louder, closer and closer, and the wind blows my overgrown hair aside.
I close my eyes, and jump on.
Post-grad life is riding a crowded subway train that only goes one way, and the lights are turned off. The passengers hardly talk to each other, and when they do, they somehow convince each other that everything is fine, even though we are all begging the same question – “Where are we going?”
When does it stop?
I lean my forehead against the glass and watch the florescent signs flash past me. The train sways side to side and groans.
I just wanna be somebody.
I just wanna be… a renowned short-story writer with at least one Ted Talk under his belt. Or Moth StorySlam winner.
No, too ambitious. Maybe an underground Medium blogger with 10k followers. Mmm… 5k.
So close, yet so far.
But what about low-key, hip SoundCloud producer?
School taught me few things, but multitasking was not one of them. I have tunnel vision, like subway conductors.
I just wanna be a writer,
but also a musician,
that I’m afraid that I will be neither.
That I will be nobody.
I jump off the train.
The light is blinding, so I squint as I step out into the arid LA-summer heat and frantic, fast-pace LA pedestrian traffic. Even the pedestrians have sidewalk-rage here.
I am weaving, and from the clamor of sirens, angry drivers, and stereos attached to bikes, he calls out to me.
“Young man! How you doin’ today?”
I slam the brakes, and look in his direction. Middle-aged, clothed in tatters, cigarette in mouth.
“Doin’ alright. How bout yourself?”
I shake his hand; his skin is wrinkled and cracked.
“Alright. Can’t complain, ya know?
About to buy me some more cigarettes.”
“Whatchu up to? You a working man or what?
“I uh – I just graduated”, I deflect.
“Ah graduated, hah! You got plans?”
I did at some point, but I don’t know anymore.
“Yeah uh, I wanna be… a writer. I think.”
“Writer! Okay, I write stuff, too.”
“Oh yeah? Like what?”
“Oh, just whatever inspires me. You just have to channel that inner-energy, you know, that inner…”
He puts his head over his heart. Gives an ugly face, like when musicians play jazz.
“…of ribbiting passion and…” – he contorts his face again – “…You feel me?”
“Uhh… yeah. Sure, man.”
“Here, I wanna show you something. You got a pen on you? You know, true writers keep a pen on them at all times.”
I feel around in my bag and pull it out.
“You got paper?”
I feel around again and hand him my journal.
“Haha shit, you are a writer!”
“You got time?”
I glance at my phone. I think about the overpriced espresso drink with my name on it, waiting for me just 6 blocks away.
“Yeah. I got time.”
“Give me a topic.”
“Just give me a topic, it can be anything.”
“Uhm… outer space.”
“Space! Mkay, I can do that.”
He scribbles away, transcribing his thoughts as they come, pausing ever-so-often to mutter ideas out loud.
“Orion belt… cycle of.. captivated, eye-boggling wonders, because – execute patriotic… new found life.”
Sounds promising. He stops and puts down his pen.
“See, take a look.”
I read his piece. It almost makes sense.
“See I’m a writer, but really, it’s all just in here.”
He puts his hand on my chest now.
“You a writer, too. And true writers already have it inside… that ribbiting passion… that nature of ribbiting..”
“Here, gimme the pen.”
More scribbling and muttering. I can’t stop staring at him, like he’s some mix between mad scientist and mystical pokemon creature. He finishes another paragraph-long sentence.
“Check this: Black holes!! – who knows, can say?”, he recites to me proudly. “Bottom line it is, amazing with motomic essentials – and this part is important, listen here – motomic essentials that brings nature into a *reality*.”
What the hell is motomic essentials?, I’m wondering.
But instead, I just say, “Whoa…”
So close to making sense, yet so far. I don’t know whether to disagree with him or simply be fascinated by him.
“And that’s the thing – nature to a reality…”
He picks up the pen and he is off again.
The more he writes, the deeper we descend into his mind.
“Reality factual… brings out of a.. beehive – no, not a think, not a thought… however a working grade.. of a solution… yeah, solution. That’s it.”
This goes on for another 30 minutes. I get tired of standing but I cannot leave now because there’s something curious about this man. Like there’s some hidden treasure inside and I want to be the one to find it.
Like despite his clear lack of coherent thought, deep down inside, he just might actually be a writer. And I, his audience, am hooked. I am captivated.
I am… ribbited.
He looks up from my journal and shouts, “HEY BENNY!”
Benny looks over at us and quickly looks away.
“AY! Benny!! How you doin’?!”
Benny, who has a lady friend walking closely beside him, looks clearly embarrassed and walks faster.
“Let’s go say hi to my friend”, he says enthusiastically.
He takes my journal and pen, and I follow behind.
“Hey Benny, come over here! I’m doin’ a writing class right now. Come on!”
Benny gives him a glare and says through clenched teeth, “Not now, man…”
“Ahh okay. Benny on a date, I’ll teach him later haha… Where was I…?”
“Ah yes, of course, motomic essentials – ”
He picks up the pen and our lesson continues.
“Inside that space that journey… above that footprint in the sky.. is unknown, however…”
He mutters, writes, puts down the pen, picks it back up, mutters some more, and I lean in to try to catch everything. Our elbows touching, I catch a whiff of alcohol from my teacher’s breath. I lean closer anyways.
On and on he goes, often taking detours in thought, like weaving through LA traffic, as if his mind is one long run-on sentence. He talks just like he writes – mostly illegible, but full of resolve and conviction. Things I haven’t had much of in the recent post-grad wake.
Though he holds wild notions and his mind seems fragmented, like broken liquor bottles, he speaks with unapologetic passion that even incarceration, addiction, and homelessness could not shake. And I have an ear for that kind of passion.
So I let him ramble. I figure I can’t do much for the man right now, but I can listen to him and say, “I believe you.”
“You went to college, yeah? You show this to a college professor, and damn, they’re gonna flip. Ha! They won’t be ready. This – ”
he points to my journal.
“– This is gonna change the world.”
I feel like a parent, looking down at a child’s sloppy crayon drawing.
“Yeah, man. I think so, too.”
30 minutes stretches to an hour and one hour quickly bends into two. I figure out by now that if I let him, two hours can easily turn into four. So I gently hint to him that I should probably get going.
“It’s been an honor, man. Thanks for sharing all that. Oh, I didn’t catch your name.”
“Ah yes, gimme that pen again, let me sign it.”
In elaborate cursive lettering, he graces my journal with his insignia.
“Langston. Langston Presley.”
“Justin. Justin Lee.”
We shake hands, and closing words quickly turns into more writing, a personal dedication, another signature, and a P.S. note. Some final ribbiting thoughts.
We finally part ways.
I’m walking the six blocks towards my 4.5 star coffeeshop, but my mind is already buzzed and racing. As I walk, this feeling of longing looms in and though it is not my own, it is close enough to tickle some nerves.
This feeling of “so close, yet so far”. Like I just listened to an almost-professor teach an almost-lecture with knowledge that was almost-groundbreaking.
“Can I get a name for the order?”
Langston Presley. I like saying it.. just the sound of it has a certain flair to it.
As if he is half-way one legend,
that he is neither.
So close, yet so far.
But something happened and his mind was shattered. Now, nobody bothers to look his way, and notice his potential. Or what used to be his potential. 0 followers.
I sit down with my drink and it’s hard to down. But I don’t think that it’s necessarily guilt – just this awareness that just a few blocks away is Skid Row, and it’s probably teemed with other almost-Whitney’s and almost-Hemingway’s.
I feel my muscle memory reminding me to open my laptop, check my SoundCloud, and work on my music.
But instead, I pick up my pen and write in my journal –
“Langston Presley, the genius who almost was.”
The following piece is what Langston wrote in my journal the day I met him
1983 the ineact (pirates of silicon valley) <–2–10–> They sometimes call when pieces never look the fit, however it work. No this is not a blessing, not of …
The orion belt next to a wirlwind on a cycle of captivated eye bogling wonders because we only understand the things seen not the things that can write and execute patriotic newfound (history) life. Expessions with minds that understand what science presents in a sum that brings enlightenment to a need from long ago problem with a thumbs up of loss.
“(Black holes)” who knows, can (or) say? Bottom line it is, amazing with motomic essentials that brings nature to a reality. Reality factual brings out of a beehive not a think not a thought however a working grade of a solution. Why (definition?) (a thought is only a sentence you tell yourself)(Does that work?) No. Look it up nothing is faulty with imagination than what brings us the conclusion and the ribbiting facts of what is inside that 1) black hole.
2) that persons mind (behavior) 3) does this count, thought, know thing thoughts are back to this a (thoughts definition) means a sentence you tell yourself. Inside that space that journey above that footprint the sky is unknown however a place that presents a high grade of what brings the galaxy of inlightment, wonders, to a new found glory that gives one space to fly, passionately, to roll with a rythym that brings ideas to a place that is not normal however inventions like persay the internet. my friend what is above in that start is life. bringing us to now. Just go.
Placed by this person who will execute a tale that illuminates immaculately introducing a new found journey of ribbiting history Justin. In space your future is not a thought it defines passion. I see you now glory by capturing the ride the pen or keyboard introduces to you,
Looking forward to your journey.
9/24/17 / Just
do write it
In the shadows of one there is redemption, a new found “glory of life”
know this is the journey only you can bring a nature of production working the your stage into passionate equal rights to all.
On Hollywood and Normandie – Look at that wall.
It still feels like summer.
I’m walking down Marine at Balboa Island, savoring new flavors with old friends. Frozen bananas with other confused postgrads.
It is October, but it still feels like summer.
A new season, but still tinged with things of the past. The air is light and brisk, filled with small talks and old inside jokes.
Spirits are merry and things feel almost “just right”,
when all of the sudden, a small party of pigeons flies out of nowhere and swooshes right in front of our party of friends.
I freeze in my steps.
The muscles in my body clench, and my heart races, as if trying to outrun danger.
Time glitches, and for that moment, 2 seconds become 2 minutes, 2 minutes become 8,261 miles, and now, the pigeons are already long gone.
“Hey catch up, dude! We’re gonna check out this shop!”
My head snaps back to the present, and I realize that I am alone,
standing in the middle of the sidewalk.
It still feels like summer.
We are standing outside the shop, the small talk and inside jokes continue, but all I can think about are pigeons.
I thought things like this only happened in movies.
“I need to go.”
Take my mind off things.
I get to my friend’s apartment. It’s been almost a year since the last time I stayed the night here. I turn on Netflix and pick my poison – Stranger Things Season 2, which, while we’re on the topic of trauma victims, couldn’t have been more fitting.
Episode 3 or 4 finishes – I’m all Netflix-drunk now and headed for the bathroom. My friend is already asleep so I sneak out with toothbrush in hand.
I open the bathroom door, turn on the lights, and it happens again.
My momentum dies completely, like a car running through caltrops. My left hand tenses up, my heart races to outrun danger, and two seconds feels like two minutes, because the earth just stopped spinning.
It’s only two seconds,
but time is glitching and I’m sucked deep into a memory I’ve thought a lot about, but not in a long time,
when I was staring down at the same white sink bowl, but it was filled with a pool of my own blood,
draining dark red from a finger I almost cut off by accident,
draining colors from my vision and looking at my fading reflection before everything got quiet and dark,
and i wake up next to a car escorting me to the hospital.
Another second passes,
and memory becomes feelings instead of visuals,
and the feeling of the times was sickening to the point where I wanted to cut myself again and create another little “accident”,
because I was alive but life was draining and draining away from me
and everything in life had lost its colors,
except maybe dark red.
Another second passes,
and the sink is empty now. My finger is still attached.
Time resumes at its ordinary tempo,
but now I am brushing my teeth
very, very slowly.
I thought that stuff like this only happens in movies, but now I’m not so sure, so I google away and find some theories and best guesses, which is basically all what the study of psychology is anyways. I have my own suspicions, which PsychologyToday – and even Teen Vogue – more or less confirms, so I decide, “Okay, maybe this is a thing.”
It just might make sense.
It just might make sense of why earlier today, I was hanging out with friends when a flock of pigeons glitched me back in time –
and all of the sudden, I’m thinking about street vendors, and honking tuk tuks,
walking the busy streets of Bangkok, tasting familiar flavors with new friends,
the air is thick with humidity, small talk, and future inside jokes,
and a new friend grasps onto my arm when pigeons fly by because she has a paralyzing fear of birds.
Another second passed,
and the memory became emotion instead of visuals, and the feeling of the times was sickening to the point where
I wanted to throw up from street food poisoning and an abusive relationship I felt trapped in,
and my will to live was draining and draining away from me,
like dark red funneling into a whirlpool down a white sink bowl.
Another second passed,
and my friends are telling me to catch up,
but I cannot because for the rest of the day, my mind is stuck in a memory, thinking about pigeons.
It just might make some sense of why,
it’s already October but it still feels like summer.
I’m brushing my teeth slowly and thinking about how pigeons, bathroom sink bowls, and a character in Stranger Things I can very loosely relate to all acted as triggers within a span of the last 24 hours, and I think I get it now.
It’s about that time of the year.
If you hold the ashes, how can you find new flame?
If you cling to your scars, how will you find healing?
If you embrace death, how can you receive new life?
If you stay in the grave, how will you rise again?
Wake up, Lazarus.
Let it go, Justin.
I can’t. At least not yet.
If not now, then when?
Why am I here?