September 13, 2011

Quinn's Picture

"You still keep the chairs out there?" she asks me with a tinge of hope.

"It's a memorial."

"I see," she says. But she doesn't. She doesn't see it at all.

"People use the term 'lost' to describe it. He was my closest friend. It was a slow and painful death. I mourned. Lost is a word for car keys and smart phones. I didn't lose anything."

"But I thought you said it wasn't real?"

 "Reality is perception," I hide behind Wittgenstein. Now there's a man who hasn't let me down.

"The relationship seemed so real at one time."

"Tell me about the ritual again," she says. I can tell she wants to save me. Not to earn Jesus points or to feel better about herself. To her, this is all real. She can't fathom the finality of death. She hasn't held onto her son, watching the morphine drip, listening to the beeps and buzzes and machines telling you "he's still alive" when he's already slipping into the oblivion.

"I used to sit at the chair and imagine God was sitting with me. Not behind me or far from me or above me or whatever. Just there. Sitting in that chair. I couldn't pray with my eyes closed. I'd think of the Cubs or my to-do list or snippets of porn. I couldn't keep a prayer journal, either. But I'd sit there in that pre-twilight phase, where the whole world seems magical and the rays of light would fall through the trees and my God, it all seemed so real at that moment. Always. I'd point it out to him, 'Hey Jesus, check out that view,' and I'd imagine him saying, 'Me, too.' And that would be it. I could never sing praise songs. Homoerotic love songs before a really bad PowerPoint slide and untuned clashing guitars. But here it felt real. Always. And then, it just disappeared. Lost. Yeah, maybe that's the right term after all. Lost."

"Can we maybe both sit there?" she awkwardly asks.

I nod my head.

"Sometimes when God feels like a fairy tale, I find that he's hiding inside the people around me," she continues.

"Tell him it's a pretty sick game of hide and seek," I snarl back.

 We sit alone on the chairs, sharing stories of childhood. Brother and sister again.  The light moves into the magical phase and then fades so slowly that I can't pinpoint the moment it's gone. God, I wish the light would last.

"Jess, I didn't step away from the light.  You know that, right?  I just looked up one day and it was gone."


  1. This is insanely powerful. You made me cry at work you asshole.

  2. This piece is absolutely disarming, John. Jess is such a gentle character--I love her soft lines and nudges. Her character is such a complimentary juxtaposition of who the narrator is. You really end up not just feeling for the characters, but feeling WITH--which is a rather large feat for the amount of space you utilize.

    I'll admit, I read this a couple times and I think you did some edits to the end (but I might be making that up and just noticed new things witch each read)--but I like that you ended on dialogue and keeping us in the moment. It makes that last line really heartbreaking. I also love that you clarified the relationship of the narrator and the woman; you did it naturally and I felt I ended up knowing the characters better because of it.

    It was a very fleshed out, intimate piece. LOVE IT!

  3. Thanks. I did edit it a few times. That's what I like about blogging. I'm more likely to go back and re-read it and change it.