Discover more from Thunder Pie
Once We Watched a Train
We live in a rainbow of chaos.
Chest pain on the road down the valley. I raise an eyebrow. Could be a thing. My first thoughts of slamming into a tree after a massive heart attack are of Violet. They’re in the backseat (don’t ask me why) and I don’t want to hurt them. My second thoughts are pain. I would rather die without pain but I have no idea if that is a choice or even a possibility. In many ways, the grand finale ought to hurt at least a little, I think. Smooth cool exits don’t seem to fit the bill, do they? Death should sting a bit. A hundred wasps. A lightning bolt to the eye socket. You feel a rushing breeze but then it blows up your nose and moves harder and harder around your heart cavity until you feel the surreal sense of your own existence crushing your ticker like a ripe summer peach.
That, my friends, is an honorable death. Even in your sleep, I guess it doesn’t feel great. We just say stuff to make our living selves feel better about it all.
“At least he went peacefully in the middle of the night.”
Umm, yeah. No. I don’t think so. Inside of his brain he was swashbuckling away at a tightening circle of pirates or vikings or wolves/ trying to stave off the violence of forever with a cheap Mexican switchblade. In the end/ he lost. He felt their swords scraping his ribs and their flails shattering his skull.
I mean, come on. Death cannot be some kind of little songbird shitting on your forehead when you’re out there in the hammock and poof: you’re gone. I don’t want it to be that! I want it to penetrate my consciousness (the one I know) and my other consciousnesses (the millions I have never accessed) with the slapping PAP! of a blistering hot charge of lupara buckshot racing through a zillion holes in my torso.
Death needs to burn, baby.
Death needs to let you know that this is it/ you are over/ there’s nothing next/ and off you go.
Plus, there is something rough and poetic about understanding your demise via the sensation of pain. Not in some sort of madman masochistic way either. This isn’t some basic idea that comes off the top of my head or whatever. This is something we really need to talk about, or at least think about. Every reward isn’t pleasant. Every payday doesn’t end up with you singing Danny Boy on the fucking bar at 2am as the crowd gathers round you and joins in like a movie. The sincerity of raw suffering is way more powerful than the bullshit happy endings we have been telling ourselves since we named the stars. There is, I submit to you, something radically genius about the notion of an exploding heart and the proper feelings that ought to accompany such a thing when such a thing occurs.
No bravery involved. There is no courage if you don’t even have a goddamn choice. And grace and dignity and all of that human horse shit is tossed out the back door when it comes to what you dying is going to feel like.
You won’t want to go.
And you’re fucking going.
And that is probably going to sting just a teeny tiny bit, amigo.
In this Monday morning car ride case of mine though, I am thinking that this chest pain can piss off. It hurts for starters, but it doesn’t hurt with the right kind of ringing in my ears, the right sort of mortifying aura that I have come to expect when I die. I have no idea what exactly is happening to me as I fling the Honda towards town/ to an appointment for Violet, but I do get this familiar feeling about the whole thing. It’s not death. It isn’t that yet.
It’s probably heartburn from stress.
Or stress-burn from heart.
I posted a thing on Facebook the night before about my old band. It was personal and it was hard to write but it had to be written. Because when it comes down to me or them, I pick me. They pick them. Everyone loses and then they win and after a while all names are blown off the tombstones by one final lupara blast of winter sleet.
In the immediate aftermath of trying to be honest though, of trying to be straight and true with my own feelings, I guess I rattle my own cage a little. I guess my body begins to experience the overflow from my spirit and there’s a lot of possible danger there because of all the hurt and shit, you know? It’s almost as if when we are trying our hardest to see ourselves so clearly and present ourselves so honestly: we are also enabling others to slit our throats with the blades of everyday regular denial. Because that’s really what happens most of the time when you try to cry out or whatever.
People don’t want to deal with your feelings. They really, really don’t, man. People, especially the people on the receiving end of your pain, they just want to smash you back into the box that they made for you so long ago, when things were better. Or at least, more tolerable. And by doing that/ by pushing you back into the framework of their own creation of you/ they comfort themselves in avoidance. Avoiding your possibilities. Avoiding your discomfort. Avoiding you changing. Avoiding your old ass trying to move forward, trying to be a better person by being a different one altogether. That becomes the name of their game. Why? Because if they accept that you are changing, then they might be forced to look at their own Muck boots: so trapped in the mud for so long now. Pulling them up might be so liberating if it only didn’t take so much heart. So much effort. So much… ummm…. change.
All of this, I keep it from my kid in the back seat. What’s the point? They don’t want to hear me talk most of the time. They are content inside their headphones. They shoot by me never even noticing me in the house. In the yard. On the steps, me going up, them coming down. I smile/ they blow right by me like a firetruck. Like a tree I just missed driving into.
I suppose that’s why I think maybe death might be better if it hurts. It’s the same as if I could just run into her tree trunk once in a while. Even if it was an accident, it might be better than all of this driving by each other all the time.
You feel me?
Kids are solace. Kids are soulless. Kids are creatures of the night and creatures of the morning, too. Kids let me down. Kids lift me up. Kids ignore me in order to survive. Kids ask me for shit in order to survive. Kids sleep all over the spaces I pay for. Kids leave the doors open so the dogs can go where they don’t need to be. Kids eat blocks of cheese like granola bars at the kitchen island and leave their tooth marks in the brick with flies landing on it like fighter jets returning to the battleship. Kids don’t laugh at my jokes. Kids invite their friends over to the house and the friends are rude. Kids drink my Diet Cokes even when I ask them not to. Kids curse like sailors in front of me and Arle. Kids let our reprimands drift through their heads and never inhale any of it. Kids pick up anything they see, even when they know it’s not theirs. Kids put whatever they picked up down in a strange place, far from its point of origin. Kids sleep soundly. Kids wake up tired. Kids throw-up in the night. Kids wake up chipper as fuck. Kids have social media skills that would alarm me if I knew. Kids think I don’t know. Kids are right, I guess. Kids text on their phones and feel so mature. Kids need to be coddled because they are babies. Kids do things I would have been too scared to do when I was a kid.
Kids eat ice cream, unfamiliar with death. Kids have not yet felt the presence of the dying. Kids have yet be bitch-slapped with the loss of a loved one.
Kids don’t think so long and hard about God or darkness. Kids believe what you tell them. Kids aren’t Christians. Kids are yes men.
Kids should not die but kids do die.
Kids should not feel pain when they die because they haven’t ever really been fucking assholes like me and you.
Especially like you.
You are going to have a brutal rattlesnake slither up your piss hole the afternoon you die.
It’s gonna hurt like hell, compinche.
Nevertheless, I head straight to the appointment. I’m not going to get Violet there late. To do so would be some kind of massive failure in my mind, even though it would not be in reality at all. Either way, I bite my bottom lip and I deal with the pain. I think about hitting the CVS for some Rolaids but then I tell myself no.
Then, on the edge of town, I end up stopping at a mini market instead. It’s busy, with a built-in Dunkin’ Donuts inside, and so people are scattered all over the place when I walk in from the parking lot. People waiting for their breakfast sandwiches. People waiting for their little slices of hot ham or microwaved bacon. People licking their lips, anticipating, horny for carbs, ready to bang a donut in its goddamn glazy hole right there in the fucking store at 9:45 on a Monday morning just to scratch that American itch.
The Rolaids in here are like 5 bucks and the line is long and so I think about just stealing them but I don’t. I should have but I didn’t because I’m a baby. Because I’m a little fat baby having a fake heart attack because I posted about my crinkly feelings on Facebook.
I head towards the door and on the way I take a croissant with bacon egg and cheese right out of this 8-year-old dude’s hand just as he was about to take the first bite and I push it into my face as I turn and hit the door with my ass.
He looks like he is going to cry.
I smile an evil bulky smile, all his food in my mouth, and I vanish into the world.
Do not have regrets about being who you are if who you are is something you feel strongly about. Years of being bamboozled and gaslighted from all directions/ or even just from one or two/ it can really take a toll on you. I know all about this. People want you to think it’s you, dude. People want you to think it’s been you all along.
And there is a chance that it is YOU. Oh, yes there is. Which means you are going to have to do some deep dive camera pan-backs to see the wreckage of your mini-sub sitting there over by the total Titanic of your shit show life.
That said, if you do that, if you take the time/ do the work/ spend many, many hours poking around through all of that debris of life/ all of your words and actions and beliefs and attempts as well as all of theirs/ and then if you come away understanding that you have been sunk, time and again, against your wishes/ and against what you deserved/ well, then you can make your way back to the shimmering surface and hopefully you get there without imploding. Or exploding.
I know. I know.
But there is sometimes a way to survive the worst unnatural disasters. I don’t know exactly what to call it. Hell, I don’t even think I’m at the surface of everything yet. But I’m getting closer. I can feel the sunlight. I can sense the pressure slipping away.
I want to live.
I want to live and I want to live on MY terms, according to MY truths. Not someone else’s. No matter who they are. No matter how committed they have always been to deconstructing other people in order to perpetuate their own Titanic conspiracy theory.
I guess what I’m trying to say here is: it hurts to die like this. A lot. But then it doesn’t hurt anymore. Ever again.
We live in a fantasy world, a world of illusion. The great task in life is to find reality.
I’m heavier now. I eat mostly shit and I drink wine every night. I have been fit and I have been fat and I seem to destined to be fat because I’m busy and sad and then I’m busy and happy and both of those things make me think of anchovy pizza and quesadillas dunked in hot sauce and chunks of feta that I shove into the side of my mouth in tribute to the ballplayers in the 70’s with their Red Man.
Plus, I’m getting older. I’m not young anymore and even though I tell myself all the time that I’m going to make all of these changes to save myself with healthy actions and all, I think I’m beginning to laugh at myself for thinking it. It’s a human phenomenon and a strange one at that. Me telling myself that I used to be this so I can be that again, it reeks of lying to myself.
I don’t want to fast.
I don’t want to jog.
I don’t even want to live a really, really long time where I am so fucking old that age itself has forgotten me. Left me sitting by the window/ pondering the sparrows/ wishing I had a .45 I could eat. Not everyone alive is fixing on staying that way come hell or high water. Some of us are thinking that this thing is wondrous and unbelievable and magic because it is so hard to conceive. So tough to makes sense of.
You know, all I want is to feel the sting of death while I am still alive. Why? So that I can understand that each fleeting moment is an antique gift and that everyone who hurt me or got hurt by me were just little daydreams along the way.
Here’s the good rag, dude.
Here is the jam as the credits roll.
There was no Serge.
There was no Penn Street.
There was no Christian Street.
There was no Fayette Street and there was no E Street.
There was no band and there were no exes and there were no over-drafted bank accounts and there were no kids moving by me on the steps without a good morning.
There were no chest pains.
There were no trout on the line.
There weren’t any deer out in the fields in the evening in the summer, beacons along the lush and distant edges.
There was no yard without a garage. There were no dogs shitting in the house.
There wasn’t a trace of Thunder Pie.
There was no husky little shit at third base praying that the ball got hit anywhere but to him.
There were no school plays.
There were no cranky boots or tattered Gettysburg books or coffee in the cabinet that we never got to use.
There was only a feeling of love rolling across this land like some old train far away. And I watched it from a rock on the hill. Arle sitting next to me. Both of us were as real as the setting sun.
The two of us, smirking.
The faint chk-chks of their guns behind us.
Hey there. Thanks for reading Thunder Pie today. I appreciate the support of each and every one of you. If you get something from my writing/ if it moves you or makes you think or simply entertains you on a fairly regular basis, then please become a paid subscriber! It really helps me to be able to continue to have the time to write for you. Thanks so much. Have a great week.
Things I Loved This Week.
The Dark Side of the Ring (TV show). This Vice Channel series is harsh and weird and oddly sad in all the right ways. Like me. You don’t have to know shit about pro wrestling to watch it either. In some ways, it might be better if you don’t.
Springsteen live vids from 2023 European Tour. (YouTube). There was a time when even a bootleg VHS copy of a poorly shot Springsteen show from far away seemed like some kind of very illegal holy grail to fans like me. Nowadays, I’m pretty sure artists have finally figured out that there is no stopping the massive leakage of entire shows out in cyberspace. So they capitalize on them instead. What a concept. Duh.
I figured some of you may enjoy reading this article I wrote. It's about my Arle’s 3x Great-Grandfather, Eli Potter Tate. This is the first in a series of articles I’ll be writing about Centre County Civil War soldiers for Bellefonte.com. It means a lot to me to have the chance to do this. I hope you dig it.
Got a visit from an old friend last weekend. It was good to see him. We have each changed so much. Different people trying to meet back in the haze of where we once stood together. It’s fascinating, this life. It’s unforgiving and lovely at the same time. Like Jello shots.
Another good friend, the highly acclaimed poet/writer William Erhart, sent me a little email the other day that said I should take a look at this poem he was linking me in on. It’s called ‘The Death of a Toad’ by Richard Wilbur, 1948. He said it reminded him of my essay from a week ago where I talked about a toad I had probably hit with the weed whacker. I didn’t expect to be taken as breathless as I was by it. It is a true masterpiece that I can’t stop thinking about.
‘Can You Run’ by The Steeldrivers. (song). Tune from white bluegrassers about a black slave couple faced with the moment of a lifetime during the Civil War. It’s fucking incredible.
Thunder Pie is Edited by Arle Bielanko
Photos: Serge B.