TITLE: What Is Not
I swung my sledgehammer into the face of the cliff but instead of breaking through, I dislodged rocks that tumbled toward me. I yelled and jumped left. My dog ran past me, barking. The boulders missed us by inches but I twisted my ankle in a stupid rattlesnake hole.
After I licked the dust off my lips and spit it out, I took a drink from my canteen. Then I poured some into my cupped hand. Oscar slobbered most of it onto the ground and Grandpa’s voice reminded me to conserve my water.
I don’t believe in ghosts any more than you do. When it comes to the deceased, I’m not like the kid who became rich and famous for saying “I see dead people” in that movie where he cries all the time. But I do hear dead people. Like my Grandpa. He quoted a poem whenever I complained about how dumb everything was and now I can’t get his voice out of my mind.
As a rule, man’s a fool
When it’s hot, he wants it cool
When it’s cool, he wants it hot
Always wanting what is not.
I wrote a tune and played it for my girlfriend on my guitar, singing the poem as lyrics, but a week later she broke up with me. Clearly a case of wanting what was I was not—a cool boyfriend.
I stood on my sore ankle, savoring the agony. Pain is weakness leaving your body, I reminded myself. Even when surrounded by pure desolation.