T for Tom

Something About Animism

Posted in poem, Prose by johnsontoms on May 1, 2018

Disintegration, like time and memories and feelings and it all goes to waste, no proof of ever having lived. The places where all told sundry will rest, the annals of nothingness, the universe in motion, should we all rapture and the new planetary beings be unable to read English or Sanskrit or what have you might survive a few millennia of earthly rot. Nothing is what will be left of you and I and everything you love and hate in equal measure. The rocks keep spinning, maybe not this one, but some rocks somewhere, a few collisions, possibly another spark, and another line of history that will just as surely return to void like all before and every after. Dissolution in motion.

Let it read then like poetry. Let the life then be the lifeline. Let the living do the thing. Let all the birds sing a rosy song, and leave nothing for the afterlife. We are here to live until we die.

We will only live and we will only die, in that order, and not more than once. If you live bright enough, a few of the living will remember you until their turn to die. Everyone takes a turn, even the memory of you. The memory of you will die, just like time and space. In continuum we exist and in continuum we cease. Perpetuity is the only faith, death the only truth. In death’s absolute life must exist, and they tango, one to the other but always one on to the other, no new partners. Life and only death. Only life and death.


On Good and Evil

Posted in Prose by johnsontoms on January 26, 2017

We must remember the equal law of the universe. Perspective allows but timeliness denies the ability to see that things are as good as they are bad in equal measure. So for whichever you feel the direction the wind, hold also that it grows and shrinks for the opposite as well.

It would be easy to look around and say that things are as awful as they have ever been in a long time. But even 158 years ago, Dickens famously recognized that “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” The temerity of humanity hasn’t changed much. That in our ability to see further, imagine greater, and believe brighter, there lurks too stronger fears, more powerful hate, and terminal disbelief. The limits of each end are only defined by the reach of your knowledge.

For these fears to exist now, that we headed in a doomed direction, must then be because of the greater acknowledgement that we can do so much better. Just a few hundred years ago, there was not a real testament to the power of peace, but the wellspring of harmony spreads in the modern times only as the violence of war continues to reach every corner of the earth. They are as married as tide and the moon.

The fears that bring this about are of course very real. There are genuine concerns that the climate may buckle before our children grow old. There are real people dying everyday in a war that grows only in extremities and sees no end. There are people everyday dying in poverty, left without the programs in place needed to ensure their survival in an overcrowded world. There is an entire gender that has very little control over its reproductive system. But to recognize these is to know also that a future can exist without these issues. Equal parts good, bad.

I believe that this swing of things is the direct result of the positive steps taken in the recent past. While not fully developed in practice or politics, there is an increasing public awareness to the value of positivity, charity, and peace. Negative rhetoric only increases to combat an equal measure of positive rhetoric. And out from this war of words, ideas, facts, and beliefs, we have seen only one side “win,” insofar as allow it to be a victory. And it may even be a giant, leaping step in that direction. But not long ago there was a victory for good. For all these reasons, it may be an even bigger leap than the one we’re taking now. And then it’s the good’s turn.

For this we have to keep hope alive. It is unbound by the rules of good and evil, and exists only within your heart. Hope. The world continues to conspire to make evil of art, reason, fact, and existence, but we are still alive. There is no greater reason to rejoice than to celebrate that the streets are still full of good people. And a great deal of them are taking to the streets in increasing numbers.

So there in your home, keep hope alive. There in your workplace, keep hope alive. In your churches, your synagogues, your gardens and bowling alleys, keep hope alive. Everywhere we look go and gather, there are people in the great communion of the soul, conversing, cheering, arguing, and living in the splendor the human condition. It is by its definition an awful condition to be stricken with in our existence, but that only means we can achieve an equal amount of good if we recognize and overcome its terminal end. We are not meant to be here, and so the only choice is to make good of it.

Because without hope, we will meet only our end. We’ll meet our end anyway, but let’s make the choice to do it in peace. Here’s to optimism in the new world.

How Are You Doing?

Posted in Prose by johnsontoms on January 12, 2017

Where are you? What are you doing? Is everything okay, now, there with you where you are? It’s been a long time but I haven’t forgotten you at all. I have a hard time living with the idea that I will never see you again because I haven’t forgotten a single one of you.

Over thirty years I’ve met a lot of people. I’d venture to say in the 20,000s or so. It seems absurd as a number, but really, think of the groups of people you’ve spent your life with each year: a different class of students yearly until the age of 18, sports teams, team mates and their parents and siblings, teachers, bus drivers, grocery workers, friends, class mates, and reaching college to know more students, athletes, professors, graduate assistants, then finally coworkers and their families and children and friends and everyone possible along the way that every shook your hand or smiled from the street. How are all of you?

On the start of my 31st year and fourth decade, my concerns are for you. Not in any way negative, but just simply that I have a hard time reconciling that I will never see any of you again. These are the lessons of my first thirty years.

The amount of people I learned to know and knew well amplified tenfold in a short window while in the Army. There, in basic training or overseas or in my garrison or just in passing while wearing the same uniform, I met thousands of wonderful people. Some stayed in my life for years while most were there for a day and sometimes a week or a bit longer. It was the nature of things, something that we were vocally taught by our superiors to embrace – life will lead many people to a million different possibilities. What I liked about this lesson was made clear upon my return to America, that something so evident in the vacuum of the army, was in fact true of all our lives. We go on our own ways, leaving behind everyone we’ve ever known. It’s not in neglect or for ill will. We each just got to do our thing.

So if you’re out there, I hope you are well. The world has conspired to change little in the years that have passed, and I hope you adjust admirably to the upcoming years ahead. Things are getting worse, and they’ve been consistently poor for most of our time now, and I worry about what will happen to each of us. I worry, really, for the sake of the world, but for those of you I’ve known, seen, met, loved, hated, fought for and against, you especially.

Without every single one of you, I would not be here today. I would be somewhere else, but I’m right happy to be here and having known all of you.

Let’s tackle the future ahead.


I Will Not Miss These Things

Posted in Prose by johnsontoms on April 29, 2015

As you reach the halfway point on the North Franklin Mountain trail, heading southward during an ascent from Mundy’s Gap, just as the ridgeline trail meets the summit trail, there looking westward you can see the canyon below and the city further beyond. At your feet there, and for miles in each direction along the eastward side of the summit, is an unexplained number of unexploded ordnances from the years spent blasting rockets, artillery, rifles, missiles, and canons of all kind into the mountain for testing, or something. You can take the trail up to the summit from this point, but there’s only a single trail leading down, a single stretch cleared out of the side of the mountain where otherwise you might find a Vietnam-era mine waiting for you. I know this because there was a day, the second time I tried to summit the north peak, that I reached this area, my furthest point yet. I hadn’t really tried to summit the peak before and ran out of daylight each time, but I’ve never gone past this spot. There’s a giant sign in the ground and a long chain of fence keeping the hikers from descending improperly, lest they blow the fuck up. I didn’t get higher because I spent maybe thirty to forty minutes staring at it and thinking, what have we done?, or, what hasn’t been done to clean it up? and why not? I lost daylight thinking about it, and I haven’t gone back to try the summit again. I will not miss the opportunity for the loss.

I will not miss the mountains, in their empty and uninspiring way, for being so corrupted by the city below. When my wife came back for the second time we had a discussion about this place makes it so difficult to breathe. I’ve been confused for some time why a place that is situated in a river pass between two small mountain ranges could be so filled with grief, and in some time I knew the answer – from any perspective near or far, I couldn’t see the mountains for the city below. The first time I drove into the city, the first time I came down from the Sierra Blanca ridge, that day when the sun bore through the clouds and lit the valley below and the sight line stretched for a hundred miles and right there in the middle you could pick out an entire thunderstorm that looked merely cartoonish and singular in the space around it, the rain banding downward like a showerhead and in an hour I’d be covered with rain. Driving in that day I was bewildered at the sight of the mountains. But never since. I will not miss the city below.

The city is among the dirtiest I have known, and not from the sand and rocks and dirt that soak its atmosphere. It is littered with trash. From my porch I can look up the short hill behind the parking lot and see ten twenty thirty bushes with something stuck in it; plastic bags, bottles, potato chip sacks, papers of all kinds. What the wind doesn’t blow out, the rest is thrown on the ground by the people of the city. I will not miss the people of this city.

Driving home there’s a new billboard posted. It’s in the spot where just after the downtown there are two highways running parallel. Primarily the interstate, but just southward and below is Highway 85. Highway 85 is, for about three miles, the literal border. If you drive southward on Highway 85 from Sunland Park, the concrete shoulder of the highway is the fence. Well, it is the fence insofar as it has on top of the concrete walls a 10-foot high, 3-foot thick copper and brass fence that even a bird couldn’t pass through. This fence starts here and follows the city for the populace’s entirety, and continues on each direction. In certain high-traffic areas there are two such fences running parallel, a distance of about 100-feet between them. They are lit on all sides by a series of halogen lights, each light pole only 10-feet apart, running for 24-hours a day for maximum visibility in all conditions. The border patrol places a manned Chevrolet Tahoe every quarter-mile in these high-traffic areas. They rove the space between, a quarter-mile at a time. And, in what I guess is the most trafficked area, the fence even has inverted lips along the top, sometimes barbed wire. I will not miss the fence.

The effect of the fence, the effect of the people who transition daily from side to side, the final causality of El Paso is that it is stripped of any culture. The displaced people who come here in the military refer to this as Mexico, because it is clearly not Texas. But tellingly, it is neither Mexican. Those who got across at a time when there wasn’t a fence and those who come here daily for work or recreation, they come here to get away from Mexico. And they’ve brought none of it with them. They’ve replaced whatever culture they had (and wanted to leave behind) with what is the assumed American identity – where we lack for taco trucks, communal and religious events, colorful homes, and tight communities, we make up for in Red Lobsters, Olive Gardens, JC Penney’s, PF Chang’s, movie theaters, car dealerships, McDonald’s, Burger Kings, Starbucks, Whataburgers, shopping malls, Best Buys, Wal-Marts, gas stations, Subways, Taco Bells (no, seriously), Barnes & Nobles (there’s only two, but they represent the entirety of booksellers in El Paso), and car washes. I didn’t understand at first why there were so many car washes until I spent two weeks here. But more than the dust, I am disgusted by how difficult it is to find a local foodstuff. The best, and really only, genuine burrito I’ve found comes from a converted gas station by a business founded in Juarez. Its ingredients are all slow-grilled in large vats, and their tortillas are handmade each morning. The place is called Burritos Crisostomo, and it has two locations. Everyone I talk to says it pales in comparison to El Taco Tote. El Taco Tote is an El Paso foundation, and is best compared to Chipotle food, stuffed into a Dairy Queen building. I do not eat at El Taco Tote. I will not miss El Taco Tote.

Looking for any other kind of independent foodstuff, local or otherwise, can be counted on a two hands. There’s two pizza places, (Nona’s and Ardovino’s), an extension of Austin’s County Line Barbeque (here called State Line Barbeque), the aforementioned Burritos Crisostomo, Kiki’s Mexican (the oldest and most original Mexican restaurant in town that no one goes to), La Malinche (the only menudo to be found in a citizenship once famous for it), and Casa Pizza (which is actually a Greek sandwich shop that makes the best salami subs). This rest is a smattering of Denny’s, IHOPs (WHO THE FUCK STILL EATS IHOP), Olive Gardens, Chili’s, Applebee’s, TGIF’s, etc. These places all have the longest lines and numerous locations. This wouldn’t be surprising if it were a burgeoning frontier township striving for capital growth. But El Paso alone, excluding Juarez, is the country’s 14th largest municipality and has nearly a million people. They all eat at Red Lobster.

The reason for this, again, is the desire to seem American. The sad triviality of this is the cyclical and non-expansive nature of El Paso’s population. Outsiders do not come here, El Pasoans do not leave. The University of Texas at El Paso boasts a student body over 25,000, but I assure you that most come from the city itself. They graduate and return to the workforce in El Paso as the few who do not labor. Because of this the education system remains mired in a spiral, teaching its students to grow up and teach its future students, and for their lack of broad and divisive course study, they do not burden their current and future students with any thought of improvement, change, deference. El Paso is as it was and as it will continue to be: a city of poverty, labor, low-income, and poor man’s education. It bleeds into every facet of character both visual and visceral and cannot be misunderstood by anyone who spends more than a day here. Because if you spend any time more than a day, you will see that anything that was sacred in El Paso is no longer. And that can only be allowed by an entirely uneducated population.

There are of course the mountains that will never be cleared of explosives, but there is also the ghost town comprising El Paso’s former downtown. The brochures attempt to sell you on the historic nature of the Plaza Theater, the multiple Kress Buildings once running the famous Kress Department Stores, the Oregon Street shopping district. It is, I say assuredly, a photographer’s paradise. The kind of empty, decrepit relics of postwar booming American cities – neon signs that haven’t lit in decades, candy-striped barber poles, hand-painted advertisements, handcrafted aluminum signs and banners, individually numbered curbsides, aluminum awnings and full corner glassworks, red brick walls with giant painted Coca-Cola logos. It’s the kind of scene straight from Bogdonavich’s “The Last Picture Show,” and it encompasses every corner of downtown. In one notoriously jaded lower floor, there’s a stretch of windows plastered with make-believe images of stores that could be housed in the empty storefronts, emblazed with the words “this store could be you!” I doubt if there’s been a store in any of these buildings since the 80s, and I wonder if ever there will be again.

This is remarkable but entirely credible because the city is constructed of a commuter’s world. From its farther westward point to its furthest eastward point, El Paso stretches from 36-miles. My own commute to work is 26 miles. It stretches from the west side of the North Franklin peak all the way down to the pass, and then east and southward along the border until just after San Elizario. San Elizario represents the end of the municipality as well as the only remaining bit of culture. San Elizario is famous for being the only jail that Billy The Kid escaped from, which is the dubious variety of fame, but nonetheless. Pat Garrett was here the sheriff, and you know this from the films. Each of the first Fridays here in San Elizario is an event called Art Fridays where the well-maintained adobe hut buildings that comprise the downtown square open up with art galleries, wine, sidewalk projection shows, and live music. The only people who go are the ones who operate the event. The other 900,000 people all miss it, and I will not miss them.

Because everyday I drive home and one of these 900,000 people nearly take my life on the highway. [Ed. Note: the following few paragraphs will contain statements seemingly derived of hyperbole, but I assure you they are not an exaggeration]. Driving home is a dangerous activity here. If not for the poorly constructed weave of highways, or the central traffic funneling that is the interstate, or the endless construction zones throughout the city, then mostly for the people using the roads. A few bad drivers are blemishes to the record, but a city that experiences a dozen wrecks in a single rush hour has an endemic problem. This, the traffic and its inefficacy, is the largest and singular proof of the city’s problems and cultural clashes. Because there are two types of people on the roads here, split in unequal numbers; there are the native, uneducated poor who drive well below the speed limit from I assume is a great fear of death, police, and a cost they cannot afford, and there is the non-native, uneducated poor in the military who through brazen ignorance treat the world like a playground and only drive as fast as possible. There are no less than 10 cars abandoned on the side of the highway during my commute, every day. There are no less than 1-in-10 cars driving on spare tires. This is a big one for me, because it is the sad evidence of two terrible ways of life: the first, that the driver got in some accident to lose a tire; the second, that they have not the income or budget skills to replace the spare. The types of vehicle that make up the roads are the types of vehicle that you sold to a dealership ten years ago. Here there are ten trucks for every car, and not because we need trucks in El Paso. El Pasoans drive trucks because they are old, cheap, and can be purchased easily. When it breaks down, I assume they replace it with another 1997 Dodge Ram, as most have and are. Just the other day I tried to park in the garage of the University Medical Center, but it took fifteen minutes just to navigate to the fourth floor, because the trucks trying to drive and park in there were too big and driven by people who couldn’t handle the size of a dually, 2500 series hauling truck. It’s not because they need a truck – it’s because they need a vehicle they can purchase in cash, in whole, and for cheap. That vehicle will be driven until it cannot, and then it will be replaced. Whether by falling behind on maintenance or by totaling the truck in a wreck doesn’t matter.

And they wreck so frequently. Often, and by my own experience driving in Europe, I’ve learned that we teach our drivers in America to drive defensively to a fault, instead of driving aggressively. The intent of the adjective aggressive is not to provoke stupidity, but to instigate vigilance – the vigilance to be aware and cognizant of a vehicle’s surroundings. But by fearing aggressive driving for misunderstanding it as fast and dangerous, we default to defensive driving for sake of safety and isolation from fault. The thinking goes that if I don’t do anything wrong, nothing can happen to me. This is manifested mostly in the failure to obey any right-of-way or fast-lane designations, and primarily occurs in wrecks where entrance ramps enter the highway. Never once does a vehicle on the highway allow another vehicle to enter. To compound the situation, the vehicles entering the highway often decelerate out of fear to find an open space, rather than accelerate. And in the many cases where this results in a wreck, the immediate response is a shaking motion of the hands and the phrase “no police, no police.” I’ve seen this many times, and expect it many times more. But it is not their fault for fearing police involvement. It is our fault for creating this place. It is our fault for putting up a fence, divesting half the workforce, separating families, stifling the already poor, and enforcing it through force. It is our fault for creating a world that has yet to open its boundaries. It is our fault for being patriotic to a written document instead of to the human race. It is our fault for filling this city with problems and leaving it to rot. I will not miss the rot.

This city came to these problems the same way any other has. But only because it started in the muck, it buries itself even further with the added contemporary problems of a mortgage-crisis, low-unemployment, and border security. There is here like there is in all the world, a growing population driven by consumer interest. But where a city like New York or Tokyo or Paris might have the standard quality of life to allow its citizens the luxury of a new smartphone, El Paso cripples itself by choosing to buy the iPhone 6 even when household income cannot support it. At every stop light, the lead car is slow to accelerate because the driver is staring downward into a smartphone. This is not an exaggeration. It is doubly worse on Fort Bliss. Without failure, every car that I see swerving and driving with inconsistent speed is driven by a person that is looking at a smartphone. Just last week it was only my horn-honking that saved the Jeep in front of me from smashing into the highway barrier instead of curving with the road. It wouldn’t be so endemically true except that the places of highest congestion occur where there are shopping malls. I live near one. On every weekend, the roads there back up through all intersections. These people do not go hiking, do not go downtown, do not go out, they go shopping. They spend what little money they have on things, just things, and do nothing to improve their way of life. The city’s parks are not parks, they are dead-grass fields with a few lights. There is no entertainment in El Paso because the people wouldn’t go. There are no arts districts, there are no independent shops or bakeries or clothing stores, there are no live events. There are only shopping malls. I will not miss the shopping malls.

It is not their fault. We have created an education system that teaches us to want things, and to work for the money to have things. We do not teach our children to work for ideas or fulfillment. We do not teach them to work for life-enriching experiences, nor emotional stability. We teach them to work for money, and money buys things. Our status and fulfillment is derived from our possessions, our visual manifestation of who-we-are-cum-what-we-have. This is a problem everywhere, but it is a depressing reality in a city that should not afford its luxury. This is a city that should be building and cleaning and developing a better future. This is a future full of people that wanted to be better, but they stopped improving just after crossing the fence. We’ve taught people on both sides of the fence that over here it’s better because we have things, and access to things. If only we could get the things, our life would be better. And the people already on this side of the fence, we won’t let them over anymore to take the things we already possess. But we have so little things, and each of them are unimportant. If the people here could understand that. If only they could see all the things blowing here in the wind, the things litering the sides of the road, filling up the trash containers, and sitting around wasting in the desert sun. These were things that were bought on Saturday but were useless by Monday, and were thrown out. Not thrown anywhere particular, just out. Out onto the ground, into the desert, out of the room and no longer their problem. There is a special kind of laziness that only a poor education can create that allows this type of ignorance, this deference to nature and humanity. It is an education derived of living for, possessing, and needing things.

Things. They are just things.

I will not miss the things.

The same education that made this possible made the war that made the job I have possible. But this education infects the other 400-million people of this country as well. I will not miss serving in this capacity. It worked for me insofar as its benefits to my own life outweighed the negative effects incurred. For so long as it paid me a substantial amount o erase my student loan debt, I could suffer it. For so long as it subsidized my life in Europe, I could suffer it. For so long as it emboldened my experiences and placed within me within an environment of curiosity and wonder, I could suffer it. But it does none of these things any longer, and I will not miss it. I will not miss the city that it brought me to, or the people that continue to suffer it. I will not miss the handshakes I receiving for defending a country that shouldn’t be defended, and I will not miss the uniform that places me within a peculiar and isolated portion of society. I have done good things while in the military, but many of them are a result ancillary. The places I have gone, the things I have learned, the people I have met and the woman I have love, these are all indirect benefits of a system that now exists only to ruin my mind and further my depression, and I will not miss it.

I will not miss filling my days with data and facts and figures that amount to war. I will not miss knowing that my work, when even its fullest contribution and development still only totals 1/400,000th of the Army’s power, comprises 1/400,000th of this nation’s power for war. I will not miss hearing phrases like “combat power” and “force strength” and “shoot, maneuver, kill” and “strike the enemy” at simple board meetings and welcoming conferences, as if these phrases were as common as “brand synergy” and “competitive value” and “marketing power.” I will not miss being told to “impact soldiers” when there is no way for me to have an impact – if I present myself wholly, truly, and genuinely for the person I am, I am met with derision; I am not like these people, I read, I wonder, I think, I believe in peace, and I speak clearly. In order to make an impact, to have influence, I have to become, and have become, one of them. I will not miss being one of them. I miss being inspired, I miss being creative, I miss believing that everything is possible. And to get that back I have to be free of this, and I’ve errantly found a way. As has happened numerous times before, I’ve found another way to return to nature, return to searching, return to freshness. I’ve found another way to screw up, and I miss the feeling it gives me. I can do anything again. The end is here, but the beginning is coming up right behind.

No matter how the end comes, it is here and I will not miss it. Everyone I know repeats the same phrase unprovoked – I never belonged in the Army. I contend that there were moments when I did belong. There were moments, moments sitting along the Salzach river or the Italian beaches of Porto Ferro, moments drinking oak-barrel scotch from the frozen Finnish pubs, moments sipping mulled-wine next to a fire on Christmas listening to the village folk band play traditional hymns in a 10-piece brass band, moments when listening to my new Czech friends DJ their latest set at an underground club in Prague, moments running from the bulls in Spain, moments lying in the snow of the rolling farmlands of the German hinterland, moments when I felt at home that I could belong in the Army. In these moments I belong because the Army made those moments possible. But it no longer makes those moments possible and I am irreparably depressed for it, and I will not miss it.

The strongest, most lasting thing I learned is that I have lived overseas, and it is not so hard to do again. It seemed so foreign when I did it the first time, but I’ve physically done it now – I can physically do it again. The means are not important because I have the desire, the will, and the knowledge now. It is a skill gained, like any other skill of bootcrafting, sport, musical, or otherwise. It’s been done, and I know a little bit now of how to do it again. If everyone could get this just once, they might do it again. But until then, they are doomed to comfort and security. Doomed to a home in one place.

But the world is one place. The earth is one home.


I was pilfering through old photos a friend of mine had posted online, a good large collection of pictures of people I grew up with and all the things they had done. I remember all of these moments too, days in junior high and days in high school, in and around my hometown. All the people I had grown up with in a small town where everyone knew everyone, all the people were there. There were the heartbreaking photos of the many friends I had that are now deceased, the moments we shared. There were poor fashion choices and high school pep rallies and pictures taken during an innocuous lunch on a random school-day afternoon. In each of these moments were precious memories, but I wasn’t in a single photograph. I wasn’t snapped or taken or involved. If I asked this person or these people to recount the details of our collective childhood, I have a place in all of them, and yet I’m not represented in the pictographic evidence even once. I always there for everyone, always on the border, but never really inside these circles.

I always felt like I didn’t belong or wouldn’t get in with this people, and I can remember a lot of these moments exactly as I’m viewing them now in the pictures – from just out of frame. There but not really. And I wonder why, until I realize that it wasn’t that I didn’t belong. I just didn’t get in there.

I didn’t really care to get in there. I think I have this shared, collective experience with almost everyone I grew up. Always considered a part of the group, but never inside the closest circle and not a part of any one’s life any longer, not worth holding onto. The geeks, the band nerds, the athletes, the popular kids, the outcasts. Everyone called me a friend, but I’m not a part of any one’s most cherished memory. In the end, I just didn’t really care to belong to any of these groups. When everyone cut their hair, I grew mine out. When everyone wore polos and stripes, I wore tees and solid colors. When everyone listened to hip hop I wen to the rock’n’roll show. I did it on purpose because I didn’t want to fit in. I relished it, even when I thought it would help get me in. But I know now, that I what I truly wanted was to be different. I know this now.

I don’t know if I’ll ever find a group, and I probably won’t. My beliefs have always been too broad, too strong, too universal, to enriched and empowering. The kind of beliefs that others find offensive, because it belittles their insignificant problems and worries. Maybe this is why my newest best friend is mother nature.   Unimportant.

What’s important is that I need to stop trying to belong. I’ve forgotten how to not belong.

I Have Unique Skillsets.

Posted in Prose by johnsontoms on April 14, 2015

I have unique skillsets. I have marketable characteristics. I have varied and useful experience, and the requisite bullet points. I have spent time in good places to spend time. I have an excellent education and a couple of degrees. I have no use for these.

I have colorful résumés. There’s a green one, and a blue one. I have everything in line and powerful references. They’re nice people who do nice things. I have the right attitude, and I’m approachable. I’d rather be far, far away.

I have many years ahead of me. I have potential for growth. I have one step on the ladder, and each step is a little more time. I have the ability to start at the bottom, and I have the strength to work to the top. I never do.

I have multiple outlets and many contacts. I have a broad network. I have places I could be, and people who want me. I have no need to try them again.

I have a lot of tools. I have endorsements and I have a track record. I have certifications and I have good training. I spend my time working on anything else.

I have a large collection of vinyl records. It’s nice. I have an expensive stereo that plays the music and an expensive turntable that spins the wax. It’s been my only dream, to own all the music. But it won’t fit in my car when I need to leave.

I have a full closet. There’s more than five jackets, a row of quality jeans, and a handful of vintage cloth. The shelf in the center holds my new felt hat, the kind that traveller’s wear on the train. It’ll go with me whenever everything else gets thrown away.

I have a curated library. Nothing but the classics. Anyone could walk in and find something to read. Hardbacks and paperbacks, each chosen for the classic appeal, especially the ones with yellow pages. I’ll put my favorite in my back pocket and the rest go to charity.

I have furniture. I have a bed, two sofas, and a coffee table. I never wanted furniture and never thought about buying it until I rented an apartment. I never considered what color, what type of wood, or what size. I never thought I needed furniture. I needed furniture when I wanted to be comfortable in the place I was living. I never thought of how much time could go by on a sofa I didn’t need.

And now it’s one more thing that won’t fit in my car.

I have decorated with things that I enjoy. I put up canvases of places I’ve been, moments I’ve been happy, snapshots and pieces of memorabilia from where I’ve gone and want to go again. Postcards and concert posters and a collage of photos that help me remember. It was supposed to make me happy again. It only fills me with the worst kind of desire.

I have a nice, big bed. I have a mattress. A mattress is another thing I didn’t think about, until I did. Again, the thinking was I needed a mattress. But a place to sleep isn’t necessarily a mattress.

I have, over time, given away most all the rest. Childhood nostalgia, photo albums, unwanted and unread books, knick-knacks, unseasonable clothes, trinkets, outdated software, relics of hobbies I never finished, unworn shoes, framed pictures, anything that I couldn’t take with me. Somehow I’ve gotten more. Each time I get something new, I try to give something away. The things that don’t need to stay will really surprise you when you operate this way.

I still have too much.

I have little problems. The kind that seem monstrous to most, but really, I mean really really really, aren’t worth my dime’s bit of time and toil. I have an idea of who I want to be and no way of getting there, that’s a bigger problem. The rest is c’est la vie.

I have places I want to go, things I want to do. I have ideas and creativities and arts all rolling around in my head, but I don’t have the whatever-it-is to get after it. Instead I have a job, and furniture, and unique skills that get in the way.

I have no reason to worry. I have been in better places, but I have been in worse. I have no idea what’s going to happen next, but I haven’t been overcome yet with fear. I have things I could do, but I have only one that I want.

I want to choose. I want to be free. I want to have attorney over my soul. I want to move about, and be laughed at for dancing. I want never again to hide who I am.

All these things I have now I have because I’ve been hiding from myself. I won’t have them much longer.


Posted in Prose by johnsontoms on February 10, 2015


What are these things we put ourselves through? Stretches of searches for feelings of satisfaction, literal, ephemeral, spiritual, emotional. Daily, weekly, yearly, and lifelong operating to find an answer for the emptiness inside our selves, that strange feeling of incompleteness that keeps us moving. Too often keeps us waking in the morning to rise again for a coffee, a long drive to work, work where we sit with facts and figures and spreadsheets and crunch numbers and make calls and receive e-mails to decipher the wrong answers, taking home a little piece (often too little) of the thing we think we need, searching until complete (never complete).


These things we do to each other go unquestioned in deference to our state in nature. The things humans act upon humans, so strange and bizarre, accepted as a way of normal or a way of society (god, society), because of the underlying assumption that we are different and so can be our actions. But while the lion eats the lamb, the lions do not war against the lambs at large.

Somewhere there is a man who, with a starving family at home because he immigrated illegally to another country (read: a different piece of earth) and can’t find steady work to bring home groceries, is shoplifting a gallon of milk. And somewhere in that same country there are millions of humans complicit vis-à-vis taxation to the notion that that man, the thief, should be reprimanded in writing to be permanently filed in the coffers to let all others know: this man has done wrong, and now will be remembered as a criminal for the crime of feeding his family.

Isn’t it extremely bizarre, this whole perpetuation? The end-state is a letter of words and grammar that accuse the accused of having done wrong. But before I get into the question of who the fuck is judge and jury, I will never understand written punishments, be they the final product or a record of further punishment. Think for a minute – to really free the mind from the vindictive if accidental perspective of crime and punishment, focusing the attention not on the crime or the criminal but instead on the arbiter of punishment allows us to see first the absurdity – that, in equal body and mind as the man being punished, there is another human who by circumstance of coincidence and chance was born of a different family in a different land and was raised to believe, truly believe, that he not only needed a job but a job by which he could command the fate of endless other humans simply by applying the law with his signature (to correctly assume that on most levels the law is not interpreted but only applied). Does this man go home every night saying he did the Lord’s work? That he did a good job? Neither a yes or no to these questions would satisfy me, when instead it could all be avoided.

And that is to me the keystone of bewilderment – how, for all the millions and billions of humans stricken to despair why it wasn’t their own self born into riches and grace, we still cling to the idea that humans get where they want by their individual acts and performance and work. That a president or a lawyer or an actor are deserving of their lifestyle by the virtue of their better-ness, having risen from above the masse rest of us who by continuing to suffer I guess never worked hard enough because we still suffer or else we’d be famous too. So, for being different and for the rest subscribing to the notion of the same, there exists a system by which there can even be judge separate from defendant. My bewilderment exceeds into anger when tendered with the additional notion, safely assumed, that judge in this case (as with all) came to be simply because he too needed a job to pay the bills. If there were any morality in acting as judge (morality being the entire purpose behind criminal punishment), the proprietor wouldn’t accept compensation – the need for morality would be higher and more obvious than the need for work. But instead, this man or woman who became judge started as a boy or girl somewhere just like our criminal, but by writ of circumstance came about the satisfaction that could be had with the job of adjudicating judgment, unlike our criminal who either by internal opposition to this morality (a hopeful but unlikely nobility) or by lack of similar opportunity did not become a judge but instead the judged.

These judges exist in many forms – managers, bosses, police officers, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, coworkers, business acquaintances, lawyers, legal representatives, clients, and so on. Anywhere there is a man and woman making a mistake there is a man or woman passing a judgment. Critically here it is a shame that often the answer is not forgiveness. If that were possible we wouldn’t all be struggling for bread.


Sometimes to me the biggest tragedy is that people look around and see things and never think, “how could this be done better or differently?” But then I’m reminded that most people don’t look around and ask questions because this is all they know and they defend it with violence.

I don’t know an intelligent person who advocates for war, and vice versa for the opposite.


I’ve come back to this country and learned many things, but what I cling to most is hope. Hope that things will get better. I didn’t have to always think about hope overseas, and that alone speaks volume for our state of affairs.

There’s a place (the only place) I go sometimes in the evening. A few blocks up the foothills from my apartment there is a road that sharply ascends the mountain through a neighborhood, and because of the steep climb there are on occasion plateaus, little ones that are the size of maybe half a football field where nothing can be built (yet). I got to this plateau the first time because it presents the best view of the sun setting to the west over the flat valley of the desert, but I continue to go back because in the middle of this proverbial wasteland there is isolation – I can briefly ignore the chain of apartment complexes below, not be blinded by the storefront neon lights, be away from the buzzing traffic and so many cars driving across this country.

The view can extend for some hundred miles without exaggeration – if you’ve never seen the flattest valley from an elevated perspective, it stretches for as far as the curvature of the earth will allow your eyesight. On this particular plateau with Franklin Mountain behind me to the east, there is a good view of the Sierra de Cristo Rey looming near Juarez, and to the right far off into the distance but still clear are the Florida peaks of New Mexico at 75 miles away. In between is a line as straight as a ruler, and the sky so wide that when the sun finally dips below its horizon the oranges and reds can linger for an hour. It’s especially wonderful when there are clouds beyond the Florida peaks. We’ve all seen clouds turn to pink and purple when the sun sets, but they turn over our heads. Seeing the clouds over 100-miles away turn to the same color but nearly an hour after watching the sun set, that truly is spectacular, and tells me that amongst the thousands of sunsets I’ve witnessed, these are different in the best way.

And so I go back there often, because all during the day and week I drive these highways, past the cracked roads, past the dozens of broken down cars each day, past the daily wrecks, past the advertisements that dot and cover and line all the roads even into the empty valley where otherwise there would be desert beauty but instead there is an advertisement. I go back there because as the sun sets around me grows darkness. It is so very hard to find a dark place in this country that is lit by a thousand lights in a thousand parking lots. The darkness sets over the valley below and from the sky downward and there in the middle is the longest, purest, cleanest disbanding of color from the sun, sandwiched in the middle like the closing of a sideways curtain.

It’s peaceful there and it makes me think of northern Arizona, southern Germany, Spain, and all the places I’d rather be. And if the best place in this town only makes me want to leave, then leave I must and soon.


The truth is that I’ve been maddeningly depressed for some time now, the deep, clinical kind of depression that robs you of all energy, thought, emotion, the kind that renders a man still until he finds himself waking up fully clothed and sober in the middle of the room for no reason other than not being able to make the decision to get up and into bed. Forgive me then for having written nothing in a long time, though forgiveness would be accorded if someone were reading, which by now I am sure there may never be.

I persist however because, for reasons I’ll never know, I’ve always believed that it would set me free, in the colloquial and clichéd way. But even if it never gives me the lifestyle we all want, I’m sure that it is the only key to my sanity. I’m reaching the point where I cannot go any longer delaying my life in this world, and that means equally that I cannot any longer pretend to go along. I don’t know what that means I should do, but things have to change and the strongest feeling is that I need to be better, seconded by the feeling that I’m the only one that can do this. So, well, here we are.


I write because in this arena there are no rules but those I impose on myself. I’ve always struggled with others’ rules because, I don’t know, why shouldn’t I? Why can’t anyone be allowed to be, in the most free and individual sense? Thousands of years of human history and art spent at believing in that proposition, and yet we’re no further along now than when we were slaves. We may have more distractions, but if we all have the same distractions we are not individually unique. Even the lower class can afford a Coach purse to feel entitled.


I’m not a good employee because I simply cannot believe that I should work until I die. I don’t believe this to be true for anyone.


I don’t think anyone believes that of their self either, but have only forgotten that they will in fact die. It’s important to remember that life only exists in opposition to death. It doesn’t go on and this is it.


Some time ago I was talking to my wife about some of these and other similar thoughts on the tragedy of life and modern living. I think maybe the context was the vote on gay rights in Estonia and the equivalents in America and other countries. We both (rightly) concluded the errors present in Judeo-Christian morals when applied to law, and it always at first engenders sadness that humans as a society are still struggling with understanding and forgiveness.

But then, for some reason and when I’ve never thought of this way before, it occurred to me that I am insignificant. I am just one of the billions of our animal species blotted somewhere on this earth. And unlike centuries before, I used what little education I was forced and offered, and from other things I chose to learn by having access and desire, I have concluded on my own things that before were punishable by execution and ostracism – atheism, peace, equality, social economy, open borders, and all the things mislabeled as liberalism. And I’m just a single man, born of two humans in a large city and moved to be raised in a small town, with a small education, and working like a everyone else for a few dollars.

And if I am free to reach these conclusions, and simply even able to reach these conclusions without the same tireless efforts used by those who brave souls who originated these philosophies, and if I am not persecuted for having these beliefs, and if my wife can reach these conclusions equally and simultaneously in the same way on the other side of the planet, than surely we have made progress that we just haven’t recognized yet.

And surely the world can progress more.

I’m Going To War

Posted in Uncategorized by johnsontoms on May 5, 2012

I’m going to war. The dirty kind where souls are lost and lives cost is cheap. But everything will be all right. I am very real and so too is this world we live in.

As I write this I’m on a ferry to Helsinki, crossing the icy waters of the Gulf of Finland by boat to see a Nordic land, a Finnish people, something foreign. It was snowing this morning when I walked to the dock and I didn’t mind that my head got soaked, coated tenderly with little bits of sleet that ran like water down my face. Soon enough the sky was blue and the sun came out. This whole springtime journey has been covered in snow, but I didn’t mind that either – a white Easter morning in Salzburg, an unexpected snowfall in Prague, and long walks through Tallinn’s old town with Jack Frost nipping at our toes. Frankly magical, unreal, sublime, and too much for my heart to hold. This is good.

For soon my heart will be empty and my head full of the burden of war, man’s worst invention. If his best engineering has given us flight, we quickly strapped missiles on the wings and it’s my job – literally – to make sure it is always ready to fire. And on the receiving end is no one, everyone, and myself. I’m aware that I could die, perish, and have left no great legacy near to what my dreams envision for myself. Somewhere in the ether I believe that my life will be remembered, like a sage, a poet, a muse, a thinker, and all willing this will come to pass. Each living day after all gives me more, more breath, more scars, move love, more adoration for the earth in its entirety. But none of this would I have if not for the pledge of war. So be it.

Nothing about my life can be wrong if I can taxi to Helsinki by boat, march the streets of Belgium, taste the wine in Italy, see the mountains of Austria, know the beautiful women of Europe, and be at once and for all abroad in the greatest canvas we know – humanity at large. But humanity demands a lot of us. To pay bills, pay taxes, raise a family, go to church, ad consume us with enough nonsense to make us forget that life is a choice. I for one refuse to die slowly. This is the choice I have made.

What I’m trying to say is that I’m fine with the choice I’ve made – to go to war. Surely I will miss all of you, from the friends I’ve always had to the friends I’ve only recently gained, the family I’ve always had to the one I’ve not yet met, from the tender ones to the cruel ones, sweet to disparaging, courteous to inconsiderate, jovial to scrooge, rich to callous, ally or foe. I will miss you all. You have all played a part in getting me here, and for that I can’t thank you enough.

What I also want you to know is that I’m scared this will be last remarks. My greatest fear is that I won’t return, not in this capacity. And I mean to say that I’d rather die in the desert than have my greatest asset ruined by war – my mind. The toll of battle has effects on everyone differently, but no one comes back the same. To think that I might lose my ambition to write, to speak, to continue searching and living for questions that have no answers, that to me is horrifying. What are we doing if not looking for the meaning to our life? I recently told a girl that I’m not a bad person, I’m just trying to find the meaning of being good. I know it doesn’t exist but I won’t accept giving up on trying.

What I know so far is that people are good. All across the planet we are not too different. Everyone is just looking for their version of love and happiness. Everyone is just trying to have something and someone to hold. If I’ve ever held you or been held by you, my eyes will never tell the full tale of the winds I soared while in your arms. We have only each other, and every minute is a lifetime. To ask more than what is present, to pass a day of love in want of a lifetime, is ludicrous. Get out there and make love one day at a time, it’s all we have. Maybe eventually the pieces will align. But for now, no one has tomorrow.

And this is the war I see in people’s hearts and minds. Afraid to risk the idea of a settled lifetime for the chance at a day’s worth of joy or rich experience. Often these days leave with us a lifetime’s worth of impressions. But the battle against security is often wrought with shaking hands and indecision. Not to dance, not to drink, not to sing, not to bring life to the dull spectrum of living we call shopping malls and pool halls and court halls and downtown bars and church pews and HOV lanes and school rooms an conference centers and bus fares and garages and three bedroom/two bath dream homes and walking down the aisle – no, these things drag on like machines, and the ones who throw paint at the walls are carted off to rot in the asylum. But I say that the cure for insanity is not medication for a few, but to instead call all of us crazy. At least then we’re on level footing. I am proudly no exception.

…Picking this back up I’m now at a Finnish restaurant enjoying aged scotch, reindeer soup and veal top round, with a glass of wine. Where else could I receive such joy? Where else could I exhume the bones of the soul inside me? Where else but in the world could I be so alive? And how is I feel like I’m the only one? No, I regret none of this. Not one minute. The battle I wage is not in the mind but in the desert, with guns and not with conscience. I’ve made peace with myself, that by making war I can calm my own soul.

Does that sound idiotic?

If it were not myself it would be someone else. The army is only numbers, only faces in uniforms, and I am only one of millions around the globe sworn to fight for whatever paper crosses the president’s desk.


My life individual is enriched because of the things I can now afford – world travel and unpredictability. This trip was put together on a whim, by a choice to go places and meet people and see again beautiful faces I know of this side of the pond. Everyone but myself went home (?) to the states for whatever reason, but I spent 24 solid years there – and mostly I got nothing. Debt, heartbreak, cynicism, lust, debauchery. I can’t think of too many things that were good during my time as a patriot. A few friends maybe. An education? I don’t use it, at least not in the professional sense. And my friends, though I love them, are still where I left them. May the best come to them all. But if I never return I am sure to never see them again. This life process, the loss of friends and family through time and separation and not by death, is called growing up. If you’re still mostly where you were as a child, you have failed to grow up. Sorry. Am I saying I’m there? That I’m grown up? Hardly. Just that I’m trying. And being in another hemisphere is only a small step. There is much to go.

Even the desert is a place to go. Ten months in armed conflict should reveal a large nature of mankind, and of myself. These things I want to know. I have seen Rome, I have seen Los Angeles, I have seen financial, industrial, and entertainment capitals of the world. I have seen the greatest achievements of mankind. But of the worst? I am a few days away. I am not sure if I will hold the hand of a dying soldier or see the splatter of blood on the ground. My job is not that frontal to the line. But, surely, it is still war. Even the chaplain’s aren’t safe from the battle lines, and everyone changes, a little or a lot. How do I know? Simple – how many of you have done this? How many of you have risked it all to gain it all? Double or nothing. I’m rolling the dice.

So when you see me at the craps table of life, bet strong that I’ll at least try. Maybe you can join me in the underground bars in Germany, or along the Salzach waters of Austria, or next to the Colysœm for a bottle of wine, or the beaches of Barcelona for sun and waves, or the Alps of the Swiss for the views, or the pubs in Belgium for the beer, or anywhere everyone all the places that have and haven’t been. Don’t you want this? Am I the only one?

(I’m getting drunk).

I feel like everyone around me is on an assembly line, buying, shopping, fucking, breeding, working, dying, and I say NO. JUMP OFF. Grab the nearest vine and swing like a monkey, for all your life depends on it! Act out, be wild, do all the things everyone warned you not to do, drink too much, fuck around, quit your job, shred your taxes and walk away, saying NO, I won’t be another cog, I won’t be another nail in the coffin of creativity. You have nothing to lose. Don’t act like this is some minor preamble to an uncertain future and recognize where and when you sit as LIFE. Hollywood told you to not let it pass you by and I’m telling you sometimes Hollywood is right. Stop fighting within the system and start fighting the system itself. It starts by dropping everything you’ve ever known to learn as you go. Hopefully you’ll go many places, each of them far away. That’s where I’m going after all. Maybe it’s easier when you don’t have a home. I don’t know if that helps. But whatever you do, skip like a rock across the water, landing new places but leaving ripples where you’ve been. That is something to hold onto. Not the people and the places, don’t hold onto that. Hold onto the idea that moving and shaking does the whole world good. When you’re smiling, don’t say I didn’t tell you so.

And if you never do, I ask that you not judge me. I’ve never lived according to the rules. So when its time to be rational, I’m going to war.

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Mata Hari

Posted in Europe by johnsontoms on November 17, 2011

Corey and I had finished singing our version of Elvis’s “Hound Dog” are were heading outside to smoke, maybe just because that’s what seems to come after everything. We left our Russian friends inside with the intent of coming back shortly, but through the red-lit hallway were walking two vixens – and as the silhouettes turned into seductive, dark faces, the words could have less direct: “You, are, uh, Merican?” Why, yes, yes, we are. And we’d like to make whores of you. The kinds of whores that don’t ask too many questions except for the right ones. They met us directly in the hall after entering the bar, as if they knew what they were looking for and they found it in us. It takes a special kind of cunt to make it so obvious, and the taller one wasn’t hiding that she was special. Our interest made obvious our intentions as well, but the only words were “yes.” We were not so direct as she.

“You will take us to American then, make us wives?”
“Not exactly.”

“See, you’re in Germany. Why would I want to leave this country?”
“I have got to use the loo.”
I wasn’t waiting for that to end and went outside.

There we were smoking for a few minutes when, inevitably, they showed up outside – I’m not certain if they were drunk or determined, or both, but after the usual round of “who are you”s and “where are you from”s she asked if we had ever fucked a German girl. The answer was no, but the words were “we’d like to.” Funny how that kind of thing doesn’t need to be spoken, but sure, go ahead and let them know. In the light I got a better look at exactly what was working me over. Sofina, the one with goals in mind, was taller than her friend, long hair that rolled with slight curls outside her eyeline, painted green to match the outfit, and with just a bit of lipstick. I could tell all of this easily when she came up close, put her face near to mine and asked each question with eyes of a child, inquisitive but sincere, and slightly impressed that I knew a little of her language. She stood with her arms close by her side, but only when she wasn’t trying to figure out to which side my cock hung. It was a nice game that I let her play all she wanted, hands down the outside of my pants. Would’ve been nicer on the inside, but I didn’t mind a slow start.

What I did mind was the interruption. Inside were two Russians we were entertaining, and one I was hoping to make. Her name was Paulina, the exact type you’d expect – long blonde hair over piercing blue eyes, short and the right kind of body, a woman’s. I knew time was running short but they beat me to any type of move I could’ve made when they came outside. The better part was informing me my friend John couldn’t be found, and they were ready to leave. Imagine finding yourself with two whores as your girl comes out, and, oh, my friend’s gone. Thinking quickly as I could I told them to go next door while I called my friend. Simple, get everyone moving before they get talking to each other. Corey was left to escort the four of them to the bar next door and I just knew that Corey’s naïveté would work long enough for me to find John.

Lighting a cigarette I listened to phone dial, and what I heard was the conversation in English next to me. John wasn’t answering, his phone dead, but alive was the girl in front me, the right kind. Dark, black hair, neatly trimmed to lay behind the ears, business blouse inside a peacoat, and a long skirt down to the slips, but beneath all this class was a cigarette in her hand – just right.

“I hear English. What gives?” I’m really good with words when I’m rushed.
“Common language. We’re from all over the place,” she said. But her accent was native German.
“No, no, we just met,” and she went on to explain the male was from Ireland, the other female from New Zealand, and she from Würzberg up the street, her name Sophia. All of them had come on different forms of business but now were just sharing a smoke. I spent a minute yokeling the Mc, but it was the girl I was after now. With just a nod she came over and asked me where I was going. Inside of course, to join my friends. She was doing the same, but was moving on soon. “Why don’t you come with us,” she offered, but I hadn’t even been inside yet with my friend on his birthday. Nevermind that he was a fellow soldier and I was responsible for his livelihood after leaving him with two whores and two Russians, one of which I was trying to score. “Oh, I’ll join you for a beer,” she said. Make it happen, bartender.

What makes this bar great doesn’t even start with the name, Mata Hari. Named after the WWII spy that played both sides until the end, it consists of about 65 square feet of floor space, and about 40 of that is taken by the bar. Throw in 25 patrons and you’ve got tight spaces. Naturally Corey had taken everyone to the other side and when I entered I was stopped immediately with nowhere to go except sideways to talk to Sophia. It made things easier that way, but numbers are easy to decipher – there were two girls I could make on the other side of the bar and I was stuck here with one. To make it worse, Sophia wasn’t even trying to play hard. She had her beer held in both hands right beneath her chin as she looked directly up at me, like a child holding their most precious blanket asking the parents if they can sleep in their bed tonight. What’s my name, where I’m from, what I do for work, all these passed over my tongue quickly, answering each question with a quick glance over my shoulder toward the whores, without any subtlety. Still she persisted. “Look, I have to join my friend, it’s his birthday and he keeps calling me,” I said.
“Can I come over?”, she asked. I couldn’t think of anything to say.
“Why not?” as I grabbed her hand and brought her over.

And there I was, one girl knocking down my door that I wasn’t answering in order to pick up the other two. The one I had spent the whole night jawing, Paulina, was losing her patience with me – when it was just her and I we had it all, conversation, drinks, music, dancing, and her eyes into mine. It wasn’t anything more than a game but the game was easy. I had to mess that up by throwing in two whores and a puppy dog. And still I wanted all their numbers. I couldn’t think quick enough. Initially I had to get back on Paulina’s good side and show her I was listening. This of course was at Sophia’s expense. At this moment I had to finally ask myself what I was doing. What worth am I placing on their feelings if I can so easily ignore and put away their conversations and attention, throwing about what they want for a minutes at a time just because I’m trying to distribute myself amongst them? Would this even work? I had to leave Sophia with Sascha, the male Russian, for a few minutes to get Paulina. It was here that I was given the type of distraction I needed.

I don’t know if he didn’t bring any deodorant or just doesn’t wear any, but Sascha, the Russian, had an odor. It was bad. I don’t know if he could smell it, but he could certainly see that in a bar where everyone has zero personal space, he could stretch out all arms and spin like a dandelion in the air without touching anyone. It was the biting, acidic smell of pure sweat, and everyone came to the same conclusion at the same time: cigarette.

Everyone started grabbing coats and drinks and soon enough were outside, but fragmented. The whore had found me first, and began about her ways.

“How do I tell someone he smell?”
“You mean how do you ask, or you want to tell him?”
“Is there nice way?”
“Tell him he has an odor.”
“Close enough,” I said. Fitting at that moment she pulled out a can of aerosol from her purse and began spraying it about. Here I noticed that Sophia was having the same conversation with a separate group, and I had an in. After joking with her and explaining that I only knew Sascha through mutual friends, I wasn’t to blame. She was laughing when her friends brought her coat to leave. Quick!
“I need your number,” I nearly shouted it I was so desperate. The numbers came across, and before I could close my phone she leaned up to kiss me in the cheek.
“Call me when you’re leaving this bar,” she said. I knew I didn’t have the intention of joining her that night. She wasn’t the one that would give me what I needed, at least not immediately. She was a woman, not a whore. They were inside, and that’s where I went.

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