Friday, May 25, 2012

Empty Spaces

This past month (or perhaps longer; I can't remember anymore) has been miserable. I don't know if it's something in the air, or perhaps just an effect of the heat, but all happiness seems to have been sapped away from everywhere I've gone. It's like I walk into a room, and all the happiness vanishes, both at school and at home, and I don't know what I'm doing wrong anymore.

The emptiness started at school with a fight between a close friend and I. I don't think the wounds ever really healed from that fight; everything's seemed so distant since then, so tense. Even if there is a day where there is happiness, it is followed by a day of pain and anger, and it doesn't help that we're in every single class together. I want to make things work, I really do, but something's wrong in my head, and I don't know what it is anymore; I can't put a name to it.

I haven't been able to sleep well in weeks; I fall asleep easily enough, but the sleep doesn't rest me, and I wake up just as tired as I was when I went to sleep. All the dreams I've had over this month have either been nightmares of death and slaughter, or shapeless things of pure color and sound. Which isn't to say that my imagination's been asleep, oh no. All the vividness of imagination is expressing itself in the day now, calling to my attention horrible images in my mind of death and disappearing, of cracked masks and empty husks. The one that's still dancing in the back of the mind runs as follows.

I am strapped on my back to a stone table in the woods by bands of what I think are sheer willpower, for there are no visible bonds, and I can't even think about escaping. And I'm slowly disappearing. My flesh is vanishing in little inch-wide rings, but there is no blood or pain; it is just like I never existed. Once the disappearance has reached mid-calf, my bones follow the flesh's example, disappearing in the same way. And once all traces of my body have vanished, all that is left is my mind, my psyche, my soul, if you will. But that is not the end, oh no. A figure appears now, a blurred, shapeless shade of shifting gray, holding a fabric cloth usually used to wipe off a chalkboard, and slowly takes the eraser to my mind, wiping me all away as if I was just some mess on the counter. And, as I finally disappear, I can't shake the feeling that I deserve it.

See what I mean? And that's not all, no. There are many more, some involving death, some involving a cracked human mask falling away to reveal nothingness within. Richard Thompson summed it up best in his song "Uninhabited Man" with the following: "There is no me within the skin." I feel empty, devoid of anything that would define me as human.

And the feeling doesn't stop at school, either. The emptiness follows me home, too, like some monstrous dog clinging onto my heels. I feel pressured, and I feel like all I am doing is just failing on every single count, in every single aspect. I try to talk about it, but I never can get past the thinking phase of communication; I just chicken out right before I'm about to say anything. And, as a result, I can't get these thoughts out of my head, can't really express what I'm thinking about, and everything else in life is suffering because of it. I'm shorter of temper, and I space out more now, and I hate that feeling of not being at my best. It makes me feel sick inside, this feeling of being inadequate and unable to complete the tasks set for me. The pressures of summer and summer jobs isn't helping, either, especially when my subconscious is trying its hardest to convince me that I'm a failure in the deepest sense of the word.

So, yes, if anyone's been wondering why I've been a bit off lately, this is why. I'm off to listen to "Where is My Mind?" by The Pixies; I think it fits for the occasion.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Erasing, or The Last Hurrah

Think of anger. Think of the most angry moment in your life, the moment you thought you would explode from pent-up rage and pure, biting anger. Got it in your mind?

Now imagine being erased from somewhere you had lived for half your life. And I'm not talking about just your stuff being gone. I'm talking your pictures taken down from the walls and hidden in backs of closets, your room rearranged to the point where you can't find any of your stuff without actively searching, books you loved in baskets marked "To Book Sale", some of your stuff in bags for the garbagemen. I'm talking about the complete destruction of everything you knew, like you were some dispensable piece of plastic that was just callously thrown away, or a toy used until the novelty wore off, then thrown to the bottom of the toy chest.

Today, I went back to a building I haven't set foot in for half a year, and I never want to be there again. Ever. I never want to walk up that driveway again, never want to feel the crunch of the half-gravel beneath my feet. I never want to smell that dank, empty smell of that house, feel that chill against my skin. I don't want to walk those floors, or see the lurid colors of the walls. Today, I went to my mother's house for the last time, to get the few things I still wanted before I said goodbye forever.

In that accursed building, I felt all of that, and more. I felt sick, like I had contracted some deadly disease. Despite the fact that I had walked those floors for close to half of my life, I felt like a stranger, like an alien on some new and hostile planet. I went to go get my books, and found most of them missing. I never did find the comics I had left there; I think she might have used them as fire kindling, but I don't know. She never did like them. I went to get my fossils, and found them in the back of the closet, hidden away behind the linens. I found a picture of me back there, too. Me, maybe two years ago, smiling at the camera, along with a picture of she and Dad on their wedding day. It was all I could do not to tear the place apart, or to run screaming.

I walked around that house once, just to see if I was dreaming, or in a nightmare. It was like I was in a stupor. I couldn't see, I couldn't hear. All I could see were memories, all I could hear was the sound of her screaming in my ears. It was so terrible, so terrifying. I'm glad I didn't get through the whole house; I probably would have been violently ill. As it is now, I feel desperately unclean, and like I have just emerged from the lair of some deadly serpent.

But still present is that biting, terrible anger. Through all the pain, and the fear is still the burning brand of rage, rage at being replaced by portable air conditioners, a new TV, and five chickens. Rage at being erased. Rage at having to do something that no-one should ever have to. Rage at being forced to hate someone I should have loved.

So I bid them adieu, and farewell. There is no power on this planet that could force me back into that building, into that life. That book is closed, that door has been locked. And now it's raining, washing away that sickness. I can't say as how I'm going to miss any bit of it.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Many of you are aware that I am a member of Seido Juku karate, and have been since September of 2011. On the 20th of April, I went with my dojo to Honbu, the headquarters of the style of karate I follow. Honbu is in New York City, and I was there for two days, although there was only one day of training, much to my surprise and almost sadness.

When we got to Honbu, I was immediately struck by how much the members of Cayuga Lake Seido (the branch I belong to) stuck out from those who train at Honbu. It was like watching the difference between a beginner and one who has been training for their whole lives. Those who trained at Honbu more often were precise, clean, and had a feline grace that the students from Cayuga Lake couldn't match. The only ones who could were Senpai Mike, who has recently passed the test to become a black belt, and has spent much time training with Kaicho, the grandmaster, and Kyoshi Robin and Kyoshi Gail, our teachers at Cayuga Lake. Those who had been to Honbu before, too, also had traces of that grace that comes from learning from the creator of the style.

I do not mean to say that we were below par, though. But we were rough, and unpolished. Like a piece of rough turquoise compared to a cut and prepared gemstone. It was interesting to watch how the members of Cayuga Lake who had never come to Honbu before reacted to the physical rigor of the classes.

Many of the teenagers I train with at school do not try in classes. They view karate as an escape from gym class, and it shows in their attitudes and their form. It showed in their whining later in the day about how fast-paced the classes were, and how they couldn't understand the commands given to them. I felt bad for them, I really did. I felt bad that they couldn't enjoy the classes because they couldn't get past the challenges. Which isn't to say that the classes were easy for me. They most definitely weren't. I struggled, especially in the class led by Kaicho's son, Nidaime. I promoted to my current level recently, and as such, I'm not 100% sure of some of the things most yellow belts take for granted. And I struggled with them. But there was an element of fun and challenge to it that made the pain of muscle fatigue vanish.

The classes I attended were not all just physical ones. We also had the fortune to manage to make one of Kaicho's meditation classes, and to hear one of his meditation lectures. The lecture of choice was titled "Tan Ki, Tan Mei", which translates to "Short Temper, Short Life", something I find personally striking, as I have the tendency to react with a short temper to life's problems.

Many of you know that I do not do well in cities, that people crowding around me is one of the things that makes an inner animal's hackles rise. On the way back to the hotel we all stayed at, our bus passed near Times Square while it was nighttime. When I saw the neon lights, and their images seared themselves into my brain, I felt a little piece of myself curl up inside my mind and die; it was at that moment that I knew that I was not destined to be someone who found joy or comfort in the gaudy neon and the thrill of city life. I need to see the sky, feel a breeze that doesn't smell of death and sewers. I need to be in a place where I can walk and not be pressured and buffeted by an unending wave of humanity, all bent on personal destruction. But it was in that famed square that I found myself the next morning, despite my protests.

I had been under the impression that a second day of training was to be opened to students from my side of the lake as well as the other. I was sorely mistaken, and had to go to Times Square with the majority of the class. I would have much rather gone to a second day of training, muscle fatigue or no. I didn't find much in the way of joy walking the streets of NYC, only stress and the lurking fear that I was going to get lost in the crowd and swept away. I would have much preferred to go with Kyoshi Gail to the second day at Honbu, and I hope that next year, that will be an option for me to take.


Today, I did one of the things that most people associate with karate; breaking wooden boards. Today was the first time I did this, and I was just a lot terrified of breaking my hand or foot. However, once we (we being myself, Kyoshi Robin, Senpai Mike, and six others) were actually there, I realized that it wasn't as terrifying as I previously thought. I broke eight boards today, three with kicks, the rest with my hands. All in all, it was a good day.