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"Powering Through," short story excerpt

Wednesday 10/12/22

I try to be karmically, emotionally, and psychologically generous as I get older, and that includes being retroactively so. My fears are that I am going to need people more than they want to be in my life and this compels assorted responses to situations and individuals and even groups on my end. That is, my need for them will be greater than their affection for me so I’m trying to get some good will in the bank. I make choices to be kind in ways I'm not sure I would if I didn't think it would help keep them around, or answer the phone or reply to the text when I am desperate. I also want to get better, but I’m not good at it. The skill of skills. Getting better. The one skill that applies to every skill there has ever been. Yes, even that.

Our children aside, this is why I am as I am with my ex-wife. I help a lot of older people at supermarkets, but mostly because I envision myself as one of them and who will help me? That's a long ways off, but that's what Columbus said about America, and he didn't even get there, but it's the same damn thing as if he did according to the world, and maybe even according to reality.

My ex-roommate is part of this form of revised valuation that I constantly enter into. I attempt to believe that he meant what he said as helpful metaphor. I mean, I believed him. Regarding his feats. Those sticky stats of the perverse baseball card. Well, not that he once came so hard that he hit the ceiling of bedroom. I said, "That is not possible, dude," to which he replied, "I was lying on the bed," as if that explained it all and effaced any doubt.

He's the person from my past that I think about the most. He will be in my thoughts at some point each day. I didn’t love him, we weren’t friends, I was fortunate not to walk in on him as he attempted to bridge those last couple of anguished inches of air, but he’s never too far off.

"You have to power through," I tell myself, if one of my kids is talking about how much of a blast they just had with their mom, and I'm not sure I have something particularly special for them that weekend or for us to do, and I have to rally my energy but without overselling that energy, because they mean everything to me, but especially now, which is a qualification I’m embarrassed by and I don’t want them to know, because I want them to believe that I love them for them and nothing else, that there could be nothing else, no impingement, no infringement, no outside factor.

I sort of said it to my dog when he was in the last weeks of his life at sixteen and I knew in my heart that I should have put him down at fourteen. "We need each other, old boy," I'd say as I scratched him behind the ears, trying to scratch his hurt away so I could keep my own loneliness at a distance and not have it encroach as it did, but I might as well have been saying the words to me and self-scratching, which is very different from self-sucking, but then again...

I did ask Troy once if he said his line about powering through the pre-cum to women. The powering through was a matter of what he termed your basic astringency of pre-cum. He used the general “your” like that, as if this perverse exchange had universal application. We called young women girls, which I struggle to do now even in my memory, more so because of my own girls. He did all right for himself with the female element—a term he used when discussing Mayans—in our later college years, which we lived separately. No hanging out. Different groups of friends, our relationship the stuff of nods and a “Hey, what’s up?” as we passed each other in the dust bowl. I think he trusted me, though. I think he would have had to. And I am not sure if it says more about him or about me that I don’t really believe anyone has ever trusted me more. That includes myself. And those that I love.


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