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Red Marrow and Tomorrow

"Journal entry, November second." 

Eli mashed the Stop button on the digital recorder and let his hand fall loosely back to his side. He had finally warmed himself by nestling his limbs deep within his mattress’s plush bedding. Beside him, the nightstand, and on it were placed the familiar items. A lamp, a book, chap stick, and a water glass, which left a tiny rectangle spot perfectly sized for his digital recorder to live. It now lay atop the bedding beside his body as he clenched it in his palm. Feeling the thin plastic grate against the inside of his knuckles in a tight grip, he thought of the way some people carry journals and pens, and what those items might mean to the people carrying them. 

He thought of wombs and coddled children, and he thought of the special drawers mothers give to their pearls. 

He imagined the sanctity of a journal, the holy ground on which pens scotch. 

He thought of whiskey flasks on brisk nights, the joy of carrying familiarity on your person, and how flasks, like journals, hug the inside of breast pockets and are shaped just right for secrets. 

Above all he thought of ventilators, and iron lungs, and oxygen masks on old faces in hospital wards and all the other gadgets that help people survive for one more day, to just keep them breathing. 

With every salvation that journals offer, Eli likewise told everything to his recorder.

Head back against the pillow top, chin to the sheets, he created a new entry. He cleared his throat.

"Hooking the loose ends of a baggy sweater around my raw knuckles, I imagined the dresser top at home were the gloves I had forgotten sat dry and unused. When you bicycle through fifty degree rain in early November, being sideswiped by a speeding vehicle seems effortlessly more attractive than another mile of wet and cold.

Everyone looks at you madly. I must bike with an expression of rage in this weather. I suspect I can feel it too, tempering me, eyes scorning the Earth. To wipe my forehead with an ineffective wet sleeve only rips at the first layer of cold damaged skin upon my brow, and that's when I see them. A fantastic couple in Merino wool sweaters. Dry in their Volvo SUV. Foot heaters, most likely, on medium high. They smile through it all. Another quaint, rainy November night. Saying, 'I just love Chicago in Autumn, don't you?"

Eli took a swig from his water glass without stopping the recording and continued again.

"I once found a tattered Merino wool sweater at the thrift store for five dollars. I spent every day of a week wearing it, just to show it off. I kept asking friends to pull at the back of my collar to check the tag for authenticity, like looking for a serial number or dating code on an old oak RCA Victrola in a pawn shop. We are all the same poor here. you never ask my friends what whiskey they drink because you always figure it's bottom shelf.

It's easy to get sad. Hell, most days go by and if I'm not depressed about something, I feel misplaced. As though on the precipice of disaster, tragedy about to strike. Like in winter, they blast these heaters in shopping center doorways  before you exit. A bit of warmth before the frigid cold, but it only makes the chill outside worse.

Yet at the same time, if on any given day, I'm not overjoyed to tears about life's goodness and possibilities and whole heartedness, I feel just as odd. The most minuscule things can trigger my joy. I learn to pick up the pieces of people as they walk. Like small touches I cherish. Breezing past a friend at a party, they will just lightly extend their hand and smile from one room to the next, saying, 'Want another beer, Eli Salinger?" I love my fiends for that. For what they don't realize they do to me.

And that's how I know I'm doing it right. because I've started feeing things again. Like arriving home today, I could feel every nerve ending screaming, pealing off my rain soaked jeans from frozen thighs with cramped hands like paint stripping claws. And I've never been able to describe that before. I am more alive, more aware. More then when I had a car, arriving home warm and dry, and forgetting all the years so easily as they passed me by."

Eli let the recorder fall to the bed and they slept nuzzled there together, side by side.