Inside Out

Surrounded by people, there is no obvious route of escape. Sitting sandwiched tightly in the middle of the back seat of a friend’s car, Andrew’s chances of running anywhere, especially out of a moving vehicle, are slim. Jelly legs and a body that is slowly morphing into a warp of catatonic slumber do not help his cause either.  He wants to run far and long until he has left behind everyone he knows and everything that is shattering his softening confidence. Andrew wants to sprint past the grasp of the fear that is so suddenly and forcefully gripping at his body and senses.

The surrealistic situation and an unfathomable loneliness hit him fast and hard. The feeling is comparable to a giant weight on his chest. Andrew’s vision and sight are slow to catch up with his wandering head, while his mind is throbbing with thoughts of enigmatic and absurd sensations. His friends are now strangers and their unavoidable presence is bordering on an enemy-like status. At this very moment, he knows none of them and wonders why he is in their company.  They may be pondering the same thing, he thinks. Andrew feels deceived and hurt by imagining such a prospect as the fragmented thoughts dawn sharply on him. His mind relays frightful signals to his body as it tightens into a frigid stature. He is cold, inside and out. He tries to refract the thoughts within himself, forcing reason and rationalization. His deteriorating train of thought is delivering him to the verge of an endless pit of doubt and panic.

Everything is not going to be OK, he thinks. The passing seconds feel like entire minutes as time grinds to a snail’s pace. He has no option but to sit steady and feel the creeping of the intruding thoughts that have now encircled his comfort zone like sharks. Andrew is possessed with an unreasonable and growing terror forcing him to sit silently in mental bondage. What is happening? What is wrong with me? he thinks, confused and distressed. His erratic subconscious menaces him with pokes of unpredictably frightening possibilities and digs of absurd distrust.

This is not his first time experiencing a rampant flow of angst in abundance. Surrounded by an ill perceived threatening silence, Andrew is on the verge of explosion from his chaotic senses. His friends now start to speak intermittently and chuckling but he cannot concentrate, understand their words or figure out why they are laughing. Why won’t they just shut up and take me home, Andrew thinks. He does not have a say in choosing the direction of the fast moving car. They turn into an unfamiliar neighborhood as a dread rises up through his stomach and into his mouth accompanied by a slight nausea.  Wondering where he is and why he ever trusted them, Andrew is on the brink. Unable to mask his state of internal frenzy any longer, he opens his mouth to speak but is quickly halted by a jumping sensation in his chest and a tied tongue. Unexpectedly, his favorite song starts blasting from the speakers. The melody floods his head with a warm sensation of safety… No, wait, this is crazy! I will be OK! He thinks to himself. Feeling a sense of relief, the tension within his body begins to dissipate like a cloud cover as the music pounds from the speakers.

Andrew leans forward through the gap between the two front seats and reaches for the music dial as his fingers barely reach far enough to turn the volume knob. Leaning back in his seat, he begins to thaw.

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The Stands

With a long-standing history of religiously providing Sunday entertainment, the team’s home ground was a sacred sanctuary for its fanatical supporters. This was their beloved team in their rightful home and every Sunday, for 90 minutes, they entered a gateway leading away from the demands of life into an engaging and exhilarating experience with close friends and complete strangers. The club’s success played a fairly important part in fueling attendance amongst most of the city dwellers but a core of lifelong supporters turned up regardless of inclement weather or poor performances by their treasured team. They were the 12th man; symbolic players off the pitch and every Sunday as they filtered in through the southern gate of the stadium, the stands reverberated a buzzing and volume of sound that was otherwise hard to find in this quiet and restrained city.

Flares, flags and finger food were a common sight in the clutches of the gaudy fans. Banners proclaiming squad superiority and prior accomplishments were proudly set up in the South section well before the game had started. The supporters always put forth a tremendous effort to animate and draw attention to their lively part of the stadium. Their spirited cheers and carefree behavior only amplified with the starting whistle as the matches got underway. The symphony of uncontrollable chanting and noise continued steadily throughout the duration of the match, sometimes to deafening decibels.

A force of explicit nature often grew around the stands during match day. Singing, screaming and a barrage of shouting were all part of the larger experience. After all, they only had an hour and a half to soak in this penetrating and liberating atmosphere created by their own enthusiasm and energy. Supreme efforts were put forth in releasing feelings of frustration from the previous week with another work-week lurking close ahead and with it, day-to-day living.

A mystical aura descended onto the pitch and seeped into the atmosphere on these exceptional Sundays.  The squad’s successes affected and altered the moods of many of those in the large numbers of the crowds.  Each week, for a group of diehard followers, it was an opportunity to overcome personal defeats and celebrate victories vicariously through the valiant efforts of the team.  The team was the support that held them up high and an offered a captivating route of escape from the dullness of day-to-day living.
The events on the pitch transformed the players into a medley of celebrated heroes and despicable villains alike. The unpredictable games sometimes provided hopes that were raised only to be dashed, leading to sunken hearts wallowing in the agony of defeat.

As piles of unwanted game programs, empty plastic cups and splattered condiments painted the bleachers of the emptying South section, the curtains dropped on yet another successful Sunday of fever pitch football.  The outcomes were televised and results available through the local newspapers but the incomparable experience and moments of pure thrill, suspense and camaraderie were only at the disposal of those who were present at the stadium on those special Sunday afternoons.

The Show

She reveled in the opportunity every time she arrived at this moment. To imply she had worked hard to achieve the status she had aspired for would be an understatement. She slept, ate, and lived through times of insurmountable anguish and hardship before she gained the chance to release her talent through music to the world.  The circuitous route to her success meant carrying a whole new appreciation for her path in life and her destiny.  Music was the essence of her being and the gift of artistic performance was passed down through generations into her hands. It was not as much a dream to become a musician as it was her irrefutable calling. She was a performance artist and convincing a crowd to dance to the rhythm of her beat fueled a burning desire within her to reach her listeners at a captivating and personal level.

Her raw emotion was unleashed every time she propelled onto the stage with the microphone gripped in her palm.  To the world, she was a performing act but she often found herself captured in a world created and replicated through her words.  The depth of her lyrical content provoked an inescapable flooding of emotion in her listeners and the words carried a deeper echo of the consequences of her encountered suffering.
When the music echoed through the speakers, a strange power and sentiment discharged from her delivery to all corners of the packed arena. Her booming voice covered the crowd with verses that lingered like smoke through the concert hall. She discharged the full depth of her soul through her vocal chords onto the front row. This force steadily traveled back through the arena with her voice likening to a crowd-surfer bouncing from a pair of hands to the next. The atmosphere and mood to her performance were set within seconds of her arrival on stage. Together with the crowd, they were in a realm of thundering melody standing packed tightly together within the arena hall sharing a unique and powerful experience.

Bordering on hysterical, drenched in sweat, and enthralled by the performances, the crowd was an active participant in her act. The one woman show transcended into a chorus of voices to back up her compelling lyrics at every given opportunity. Though she was the focus and main event, she was present on stage for the listeners and her music often mirrored events in their lives and beamed verbal images of their own stories. Her music was the backdrop to their lives and she was there for them just as much as they were there for her, at the show.

There was always time for reflection backstage. Simmering in the anxiety and speeding thoughts, she was impatient to burst onto the stage and hear the primal roaring eruption of the crowd. These long moments were the calm before the storm and the anticipation quickly transpired into a sweat across her forehead.  It was now just seconds before she soared onto the stage for the impending moment of  impact with the hearts of her audience.

The Landing

Leaning forward in his uncomfortable seat, Nikhil gazes out the oval-shaped window. He has sat glued to this seat in silence for 8 hours and is now approaching his final destination. His port of landing served as his birthplace and the starting line for his unpredictable journey around the world. Today, it is more a seemingly foreign place to his sensitive, shielded eyes. He observes the distance and marvels at the contrasting shades of the orange and blue of the morning sky above the clouds at this high altitude. The young man knows he is inching closer to a world he recognizes through memories past though it is very different from the one he now lives in.

Nikhil’s mind wanders to his childhood and how things were in what is now almost comparable to a former life. He periodically fondly recollects moments from his youth and the untainted image of happiness and innocence pours into his soul with a sense of longing; a perfect portrait oblivious to any of the unfortunate realities of life he has actually faced there as a youngster. Underneath his flesh and bone, he is a dreamer but this is a title he takes much offense to. He quickly snaps himself out of this nostalgic state and buckles his seat belt as the stewardess frantically makes her rounds to ensure the passengers are in compliance with the landing procedure. A nervous childlike excitement enters his body, comparable to that of a tourist traveling to a new and exciting vacation destination for the first time.

As the aircraft approaches the landing strip, Nikhil breathes a sigh of relief from the accumulated anticipation and forsaken patience required for such long-haul trips. The plane soars over an endless number of shanty homes in its final descent.  From the sky, these dwellings look like a collection of brown boxes huddled closely together to form a tightly knit collage of jagged metal rooftops. He knows this slum well and on many previous occasions, it has signaled his arrival and the impending landing at the city airport.

The foggy, musty air is a distinctive feature of the city visible outside immediately upon touchdown. While the plane taxi’s to its assigned gate, the baggage handlers and airport workers can be seen patrolling the vicinity of the tarmac. It is just another day on earth for the people living here but it is a special moment for Nikhil.  As the doors of the airliner open, he eagerly awaits his chance to squeeze out of his row of seats, into the narrow aisle and cautiously off the plane.

As he steps off into the tunnel walkway, the hot pungent air infused with an assortment of odors of the city and far from a breath of fresh air, rises up through his nostrils and his nostalgic longing transitions into the present moment. This overpowering smell signifies an entrance into an invigorating and alternate world. The warmth and humidity of the immediate environment is taken in by Nikhil with zest and a sense of satisfaction.

Various employees of the airport are present in the channel including a cleaning crew and a couple of wheelchair attendants. They make eye contact with Nikhil and endure a stare as he strides up the walkway.  He has never encountered these people and will more than likely never see them again but somewhere inside him, he feels connected to these people. Nikhil cracks a smile for their scrutinizing eyes and walks through the long walkway into the terminal.

Corner House

The quiet corner house sits subtly at the end of her row. She has been harmoniously nestled between a large concrete wall and the neighboring bungalow of similar size for decades.  A warm shade often encompasses the land and offers a privacy otherwise unknown to this part of the planet. The plot was selected for this very reason and has offered those who lived there a comforting seclusion from society. A formerly vibrant residence consisting of family pets, children, and frequenting friends, it tells a very different story today; one of survival and resistance.

The house has a sole inhabitant who holds the key to this home’s past and he carries the torch on its continued longevity. The man is as unrelenting as this house in his quest for upholding the foundation. The glossed red front door, once welcoming and potent in color, is now chipped and scratched, though it has been repainted several times. The interior of the house is no longer as it once stood in its newness and lively splendor. The kitchen, collecting inevitable dust from its close proximity to the open back yard, has served many a hot meal of gratifying exotic foods to rumbling stomachs.

Following a steep upward flight of stairs chiseled in stone, three bedrooms sit separated by a tiny passageway.  The rooms could recount a history of innumerable happy moments but they now sit relatively bare, with scant furniture, old magazines and items of clothing dating back over a generation.  At first glance, the antiquated items seem worthless and unnecessarily retained but they are kept for reasons symbolic and illogical to those who have yet to experience the full circle of life. At the end of the small corridor sits an expansive and welcoming balcony, sheltered by a large tarp. The warm rays of sunlight that manage to seep through cracks in the shield warm the terrace floor. The dense and sapping air, scathingly hot during the summer months, is capable of shocking the body as it attempts to adapt to the outer atmosphere swiftly from the cooler inner passageway. The balcony cover also offers protection from the monsoon rains and serves as a walkway and playground for the neighboring stray cats that have made a home in the vicinity of this long-standing house. Their paw steps can habitually be heard dancing about the tarp in a state of frenzied play.

Through years passed and seasons changed, the house has served as base of unquestionable and abundant fond memories. Moldy and worn, it holds on to a slice of life in a dormant state.  The aura of the abode radiates serenity similar to years past, though its vitality and energy have been steadily drained.  As for the owner of this house, he is and always will be in charge of his creation through an unbreakable bond that stretches beyond the concrete walls and wooden doors. He is, after all, the captain of this ship and is determined to stay on-board till its very end.

13

The rectangular cut of paper, once crisp, smooth and light to the touch has now thinned and diminished in color. The creases running through the paper are erratic, creating cracked lines and crumples throughout its soft texture. Ruffled edges with tiny folds on its four corners, the bill, once shining new at its inception, has lost its fresh lure but holds the same value as it always did. The worth of this well-known piece of art does not rise with age and the implications of its existence have remained consistent throughout its existence. The fading green ink mixed with the discolored greyish-white paper is peppered with seals and stamps, even one bearing divine inferences. This particular note has sat in countless palms through the years, clean and dirty, experiencing smudges, ink blots, and stains. It has survived its voyage from one handler to the next to experience the grasp of yet another set of fingers.

This collage of signatures, numbers and symbols is a busy graphic work. On the back of this intricate feature sits a fine emblem showcasing a dominant bald eagle biting down on a banner proclaiming the phrase “E Pluribus Unum”. With it wings in an expansive spread, the majestic eagle clutches its claws on a cluster of arrows and a branch holding historical value. George Washington’s peering eyes watch the handler from the heart of the note as the portrait on the paper pays homage to his name and his legacy. The large letters of the number one, sketched on the center of the note on its reverse side, boldly proclaim its importance and worth.
This bill from the year 2009 has been used, abused and has stood through wear and tear within its short lifespan. It has proved tough and has served all those who have possessed it, though often it has also played the role of master.

It is a “legal tender for all debts, public and private” and is one of the most sought after and powerful pieces of paper in the world; the dollar bill. It is only correct that it deserved a closer second look.

Floored

The mouth guard detached from his teeth followed by a trail of saliva, flying out with a vicious jolt of the head. He had been hit before. He had been hit hard and he had been hit straight on the chin. Never before had he been hit quite like this. Throughout his young life, poking, prodding and jabbing were kin to his existence.  Rolling with the punches was an instinct that he had come to fine-tune and hitting the canvas, especially in such a critical moment, was never the appealing route or a realistic possibility for a man like Julio.

The sweat trickled down his pulsating head and dripped onto the mat. There was a rapidly growing pool of perspiration forming around his silhouette. The veins on the side of his temple were throbbing and the pain and shock of such a devastating blow were smeared on his battered face. The bright lights of the arena were shining down on Julio that night, though at that very moment, it was him alone in a dark place he had never traveled to before. He needed a one-way ticket out of there fast and his only hope was to collect himself before the 10-count. Rising up and silencing the demons that had now suddenly crept into his customarily confident frame was critical to his immediate survival.  Demons were always present in Julio’s life and he knew each one by name. He was one to face his struggles head on and overpower his afflictions but tonight, he found himself having to work from a frantic and desolate position. The sweet science had turned all too sour in the blink of an eye.

Julio had a knee on the canvas and his pride on the ropes.  As he knelt there facing the shock of the brutal blow, his saw what he thought was his career flashing before of his eyes, and slowly sinking out of grasp. The desperation of the moment was intense for Julio; an intensity that he had no control over. He was either going to rise from the ashes of the phoenix to continue his battle or stay grounded and face the implications of his defeat. Julio was in no position to make any sort of rational decision and the 10-count was all but over. With 3 seconds left before he was ruled knocked out, the time had come for Julio to take charge of his destiny.
In the ring he was a champion but in the game of life, he was a perennial challenger. Julio had made up his mind…

The Dock

The golden-caramel wooden structure extends out into the open sea on the outer edges of the bay. The fixture is a large piece of wood planted directly into the salty water. It is of a narrow width but large enough in length to evoke a feeling of isolation to those who venture through to its outer tip. This dock sits in harmony with the bay and has served as a place of solitude for some. More than a few have sat on the brink of the dock with their legs dangling off the edge submerged in the water of the sea below.

Seagulls hover over the dock, ever watchful of their surroundings and happenings in the bay. They are on a constant hunt for scraps of food carelessly discarded by the restaurant goers and those who frequent the area. The loud flocks of seagulls squawk over leftovers as a pair of ducks nosedive into the warm water in hopes of securing a tiny meal to satisfy their hunger. Animal life is abundant on the seafront and the sea creatures emit a vibrant allure to those strolling past on their daily walks.
The boats docked at the harbor are of varying shapes and sizes but most shine a bright white shade with exotic names and intricate qualities.  Some have featured in the bay for years while the newer yachts stand easily identifiable in their novel glimmer. Comforting and subdued, the boats convey a magnetism that begs one to step on board and sail endlessly out into the open sea in search of a fresh, unexplored horizon.
The lighthouse in the distance has stood erect for decades. Its historical value is significant to the rich character of the coastal region. The active, timeworn tower oversees and assists the larger vessels to a safe entry into the bay.

The outstretched serpentine coastline opens the opportunity for its visitors to settle into a state of contemplation while admiring the visual splendor of the sea from the shoreline. This panorama has inspired many with insight providing momentary escape to take an inner stroll through their own minds to uncover underlying dreams and ideas.
As the sun rises in the distance and the harbor, engulfed with fluttering birds and swaying boats, prepares for another day, the wooden dock sits quietly outstretched amidst the incoming waves and whitecaps awaiting the next great mind who dares to wander out onto its limits to boundlessly discover.

Stay

It is hard not to wonder what runs through his head at any given moment during the day. I like to think that he is in deep thought about profound subjects at most times but she is there to quickly remind me that he is more than likely thinking of either food, play or sleep. She is probably correct and I find myself disappointed coming to the realization that he doesn’t hold the key to the universe in his head.

He sleeps plentifully since he is still quite young and plays ferociously when he is awake. He holds a tendency towards sporadic wildness, a generally energetic disposition and is not afraid to express his unadulterated emotions. Some of his daily activities include ambushing any unattended socks and tackling drying laundry. Not one to be preoccupied by minor details, his care free existence is admirable. His animated act is balanced with an understanding in his eyes and a happy, positive body language that calms the tense soul when such type of comfort is much needed. Worrisome, however, is the fact that he is unable to express himself verbally.  It is easier and more pleasant to think of his quiet in comparison to a monk who has taken a vow of silence for the length of his life to explore enlightenment and a deeper sense of self. At four months old, his level of maturity surpasses that of many a teenager.

His physical appearance is pleasant and the youthfulness in his body shines through his immaculate, fresh coat.  When he plays, he puts forward his best effort and all his energy into the moment. His furry legs and small size are capable of disarming even the staunchest of skeptics who wouldn’t normally take to his kind. The level of popularity he has achieved in his neighborhood is impressive. With a spring in his step and a curiosity matching that of the NSA, he is eager to meet all those that cross his path with a leap, lick and wagging tail.

He is like a son and a friend but to everyone else, he is my dog. He has brought insurmountable pleasure into our home and he continues to bring joy into our lives on a daily basis. He harbors no resentment in his heart and his intent and goodwill make him a special personality. He sees the world through his own eyes and lives the simple life; something that we humans find harder to do. He is an inspiration and plays a big part in our little story.

An Epic Journey

As he peered down from the highest point of the street, his heart pounded from the thought of reaching an uncontrollable high speed as he prepared to recklessly barrel down the hill in pursuit of a momentary glory and sense of self-satisfaction. The thought of losing control while simultaneously being in charge of the situation was always a motivator in John’s actions and bolting down a hill was the perfect opportunity to cement and further fortify this aspiration of reckless abandon. The thought of successfully reaching the bottom of the hill, standing with his feet firmly planted on the two ends of his board and arms pumping triumphantly in the air trumped the thoughts of scars and probable injury. This hill was his mission and John was determined to complete it.

A slab of maple wood with four fifty-three millimeter polyurethane wheels and two pieces of metal holding it all together is hardly a smart tool to voluntarily a hit break-neck pace on, down a worn-out asphalt side street. But such trivial details never bothered John. He was a thrill-seeker and the chance to have adrenaline pulse through his veins was opportunity enough in his mind to try something that most wouldn’t think twice about undoubtedly declining. There were cars, potholes and debris to tangle with and to possibly send him to the emergency room just as quickly as he was prepared to go full throttle down that hill. There was a strong chance that he would lose control of his board and end up sliding across the asphalt like a set of skidding tires on a car screeching to a halt. But today was John’s day. He had an all too familiar tingling sensation running through his body of the impending thrill, despite the anxiety of possible failure coupled with fracture. It was not the shaky hands and knees that were at the forefront of his racing thoughts, however. It was to feel the wind in his face and the freedom to reach an absolutely preposterous velocity that guided John to the top of the street that day. And he was unwavering in his commitment to come down the street standing firm on both feet regardless of whether or not it was the last thing he would do for a while.

 John was intent on carving this hill while navigating past certain obstacles that stood between him and his ultimate moment. It was at times like these that he felt alive and knew that his existence was not in doubt. Obliterating the unease that was running through his body and smashing all the uncertainty that was conjured up in his mind was a feeling that would only be reached at the base of the descent.  The bottom of the hill signified comfort and safety but the thrill of the chase was what turned him on. He lived for the process. He was a conqueror and this hill desperately needed to be conquered. The moment had arrived for John to defy the odds of failure and broken bones and accept his self-appointed challenge of reaching brilliance.  And so began the adventure that was John’s descent and the wheels were set in motion for one man’s epic journey.