Unpopular

The path divides; distinct, obvious, yet uncertain. The choice is clear, but the choosing still difficult. One way is well-worn, gentle and forgiving, but ends far from where you want to be; the other is arduous, steep, and faces into a bitter wind, yet follows the path you had already decided on. It grabs at you, pushes you back, wears you down and makes you second-guess your certainty. But it does not change the fact that you know it is the only path you can ultimately take.

You are not courageous, you are not righteous, but you are strong.

(Daily Prompt: Unpopular)

View

He was there when I left for work, and hadn’t moved when I came back home that afternoon. An older man, maybe mid 70s, sitting placidly, calmly, he didn’t seem to be waiting for anything or anyone. The bus stop was a block and a half around the corner. He wasn’t even really looking at anything in particular; his eyes would wander, now following a car down the street, then up to a bird lazily riding a thermal, then down to settle on the city skyline and the low mountains behind that stretched out and away down the hill beyond the little patch of park cornered away here.

The next day he was gone, and the next, and again until the following week, when he had reclaimed his spot, that same look of passive intent on his face, back against the low curve of the bench, just watching. Each week, the same day, all day. A few months later I had the day off, and with the weather being particularly fine in that cooling glow of waning summer, the park beckoned. As I strolled in I found the man in his same place, for just a moment with his eyes closed, leaning into a passing bit of sunshine, letting it play across his face with the breeze. I paused, hesitant, not wanting to interrupt his reverie, and stood awkwardly for a moment before looking away and casually offering, “What a great day.”

Looking back I found him looking at me with that same expression of calm repose, not so much studying me as absorbing my sudden appearance, then slowly nodded as he looked away. “It really is,” he said, leaving that hanging.

I paused a bit before prodding, “I’ve seen you out here quite a bit this summer, do you live around here?”

He let the question hang in the air for several beats before replying, “I used to. Just down the hill a ways there,” he gave a brief nod of his chin. “My wife and I, we lived there for 15 years. We used to come up here all the time.” There was no overtone in his voice, he spoke simply and matter-of-factly like a man gladly giving directions to a lost stranger.

“Where are you now?” I asked.

“Riverside,” he said with almost a half-laugh.

“Jeez, that’s clear across town, seems kind of far for a day in the park.” I looked around, even though I knew exactly what I would see.

He paused again, not so much like he was thinking but more that he was letting the unspoken question finish, still looking out over the city. “Riverside is nice enough, but I’ve always loved this place. It’s just a bit hard for me to live here now. Can’t handle the hills every day.” He let out another half-laugh. “Getting I can hardly handle a flight of stairs.”

“In all the time I came here, I never once sat in this bench. Not once. Never wanted to sit still long enough, I guess. We’d put out a blanket on the grass maybe, but we were usually walking, talking, always doing something. Never really cared what, just loved this view, ” he waved the back of his hand at the panorama in front of us. “After a while life caught up to us and we came here less and less, then I got another job and we moved, and… well, we never really went on our walks after that.” He squinted slightly, peering at something unseen. “Life went well enough, but I lost track of the things that were bigger than me. You put your head down and you live. And after a while, you forget what the view looks like just because you never bother to look up anymore.”

He paused again, longer this time, eyes set in the distance. “May and I had a good life. We had our house, had two kids, went on the occasional vacation. After she died I just found I’d run out of road. And, for a while after, I just kinda decided that’s as far as I was supposed to go. But one day I decided I needed to clear the cobwebs a bit. I came out here for the day, lifted up my head, and looked around. And I got to see a whole world again. All kinds of people and places, little things I’d never even considered before. So I quit that road and climbed this hill again. There’s a whole lot to see even just planted right on this bench, and I don’t want to miss anything.”

(Daily Prompt: Happy Endings)

Allstar

If there is one timeless, uniform standard to fashion, it is that Converse are hip. Super fly. Rad. Awesome. Sick. On fleek. The adjectives evolve but the shoes remain ageless. Nothing can touch the stylish simplicity of that rubber-capped canvas.

Does not matter if you are male or female, adult or child, riding the bleeding edge of fashion or a sweatpants devotee. This canvas cowboy boot for the pavement dweller, getting only more comfortable and wearable the longer you have them, takes you anywhere. A shoe so complete in its simplicity, any derivations of it are an act of art rather than commerce. In the pantheon of fashion icons, there are the demigods of each era, shining in their brief absurdity, and there are the enduring deities.

Give me Converse, give me blue jeans, give me t-shirts, and I shall never want for comfort or style for all my days.

(Daily Prompt: New Sensation)

Drive

It’s LA cold out tonight. Not properly cold, but the kind of cold that makes you second guess your clothing choices and makes the thin-blooded Angelinos who have sworn their undying fealty to the all-holy altar of fashion screw their faces up in contempt at the weather’s incompatibility with their shoe choices. But fuck it, that’s no reason not to put the top down. Just crank up the heater full blast; can’t hear it over the stereo anyway. A convertible is pointless without at least several hundred watts to fill the empty space.

Stomp on the pedal as the light turns green, leave those poor fools in their Audis and Mercedes behind, their capped teeth gleaming electric white in the glow of their iPhone screen. Turn off the Santa Monica incline and push back into the cracked leather of the seat as the engine really opens up, gunning it for Malibu. The air is sticky with salt, clinging to everything, settling like frost on the windshield, making the air feel colder than it should. The ever-present dull orange glow of the city lights up the rear-view mirror like a fire licking at the rear bumper, but it can’t keep up. Those wolves and hellhounds and their plagues of promises, by god they can’t keep pace. Got to get clear.

Scream into the empty parking lot of a liquor store just past Malibu, didn’t dare stop before then to restock. A handle of rum and a six pack of Corona should be enough to wrench free of the stranglehold of LA County. The man at the counter stares listlessly, framed by top shelf booze and ageless shrink-wrapped beef sticks. Poor bastard, it’s too late for him.

Step out and pause a moment to light a cigarette, basking in the heat coming off the car hood as the radiator quietly ticks and creaks in the cold air, a sheen of condensation already forming on the leather seats. Across the highway the ocean stretches like a blank canvas saturated with ink, pushing away the beach houses that keep trying to muscle in on it, vying for an unobstructed piece of horizon. Three thousand square foot bohemian lifestyles bought and paid for, used on the occasional weekend. Scuff the cigarette into the asphalt and turn over the engine again with a roar, and swing a wide arc through the lot at speed and back onto the road.

Wait until that county line sign is in the headlights to open it up again; no sense in giving the Malibu police a reason to descend now, those polished hyenas will pick a man clean. Oxnard and Ventura pass briefly in a blur, and then the road ahead yawns black, hugging the contours between cliffs and beaches, planing a rubber-polished path up the coast. A raucous, gritty guitar riff blasts out a song about loss or love or new-found fortune; they’re all the same really. The city is behind. The road is ahead.

(Daily Prompt: Write Here, Write Now. With respect to HST)

Horizon

It’s a fine line, that horizon. The sunset pushes past it so quietly, almost absently. It promises both more, an unknown beyond, and an end, a finish to the day, a limitation on how far we see. The ocean rises to meet it and is turned back, and in retaliation it swallows the clouds and the sun, sucks the light and color from the sky and leaves only the crumbs of stars, and the moon until it too tires and falls to the ground.

We travel to meet it but are never greeted. We climb mountains to find it, and simply find it has leapt to the next mountain top, taunting us with a reach too far. And yet we never tire of the chase. We are never disappointed. If anything, we are encouraged, we keep playing its game as a child blissfully ignores the futility of a game that cannot be won. We never cross that line, and we never will, but we still reach for it, the hard, inked outline that encircles everything we know, the outline colored in by each thing we find inside it. Each our own personal coloring book, published by the horizon and left in our hands to fill its pages.

It’s a fine line, that horizon. But it lives for our defiance of it.

Movement

What was this sensation? Falling? It had that peculiar lack of control, that sense of motion and speed, but none of the jarring lurch in the pit of your stomach, the expression of instinct in a way that tensed your body and prepared it for impact. But there was no impact, no rushing floor, and no fear. Just the momentary panic of assessing the unknown and unrecognizable and finding a frame of reference for it, something to neatly categorize and label so it could be shelved among common experiences to be found again later.

But this was new. This got an empty shelf to itself, way off in the corner reserved for things that would either eventually need their own wing or would get buried under a pile of scattered memories left to be frantically dug up some late afternoon when the whole shelf was kicked over by the smell of mushroom soup and old leather. There wasn’t even anything frantic to it, nothing clawing to be brought under control, just a restless curiosity. It reeked of inevitability. Was it even a recent feeling? How long had it been there? Was it always around, quietly overshadowed by the persistent pummeling of experiences that lined up demanding to be acknowledged and tended to? Maybe it had been there from the beginning, just forgotten.

There was honestly no telling at this point. There wasn’t even a lot to be done about it. It was clearly getting at something, a tugging at the mental sleeve, but it wasn’t about to give any hints. It just had to be seen when it happened.