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"Is" by Joe Frleta


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“Yes, life is life,” Charles said. “Except when it …”

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“Isn’t”

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Charles pauses here, to which Cassandra says: “Okay, so what we think is, isn’t, if I understand you correctly, because if that’s what you mean, I don’t.”

“What I mean,” Charles explains, “is, what is and what isn’t, isn’t always what we perceive. What I’m saying is doesn’t always mean something is, and what isn’t doesn’t always mean something isn’t, unless we establish it is or isn’t.”

After a pause, for effect, which doesn’t come, Charles continues his conjecture, uninterrupted. Cassandra still seems confused.

“Another case in point is, if you think you see something that isn’t there, does it mean it’s there? It can be an optical illusion in the same way when you don’t see (or hear) something, or someone, say, behind you, does that mean someone is behind you, or isn’t, and you may be somewhat startled once someone walks passed you, since you had no idea or didn’t realize anyone was behind you, until you found out there was. Is that a better explanation?”

“You didn’t know, until you did, what’s your point?” Cassandra returns.

“Well, if you didn’t see (or hear) anything until whoever it was walked passed you and you only realized it then, that’s how quick someone can sneak up on you and how unaware and how unprepared you’d be if that someone had planned to attack you.”

Cassandra’s eyes widen.

“Of course,” Charles adds, “that is, or isn’t, only a supposition.”

###

“Living in the Ancient Times”

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today..

Not all who wander are lost, Charles thought.

Although they may be.

They wear labels: If found, turn into the lost and found.

The lobe in the center of the outer ear often lets in sounds they don’t hear.

“Even if you do,” Cassandra says.

When I got on the bus I walked in the front door and while the other passengers got on I walked out the back door and did the same thing with the next two buses that followed.

I had time to kill and didn’t want to just sit there looking like I had nothing to do when a bus came and the other people waiting there got on.

That’s usually the case when one doesn’t have anything to do to look like he was busy by having something to do when he didn’t have anything to do other than getting on and off a bus.

Afterwards, I went back home, but went out again, as if I had somewhere else to go when I didn’t.

Pretending you have something to do when you don’t is a job in itself.

You can’t see the forest through the trees. Thousands of acres may surround you, but all you see is what’s in front of you. No wonder people get lost walking around until they don’t know where they’re going even if they think they do when they start out.

You wouldn’t think that, but it’s true.

It’s happened to me before.

“I felt like such a fool,” Charles said.

“You are,” Cassandra says.

The people who say they don’t like BIG government intruding in their lives sure don’t seem to mind intruding on other people’s lives in any way they can.

They love power.

Except when it comes to money.

They love money more.

“Of course,” Cassandra says, “what’s at issue here are the singular groups of people in certain political groups who feel it’s their right to tell a nation of 350 million how they should live their lives.”

“We know who they’re talking about when they say little government when it comes to the people they’re in office to serve,” Charles adds.

“Corporate Greed!” Cassandra says.

“The Monopoly World of BIG Money!” Charles adds.

“Deep Pockets!” both say.

A land where rules and regulations to protect the environment and our planet against corporate abuse is when they love little government.

Rules and regulations are an infringement on corporate accountability.

The environment and our planet be damned.

This is when the Monopoly World of BIG Money wins.

“BIG time!” Cassandra screams.

###

“The Last Turn of the Screw”

###

Charles met Cassandra passing through Harlingen working in Brownsville when he was in Texas. She looked like she needed a friend just like he looked like he needed a friend. She was working there like he was working there while they were both working their way through college. We spend the next week together. As a thank you she reached her hand down his pants and whacked him off every evening. A Howard Johnson comes in handy.

She tasted just as good as she looked.

The first turn of the screw hurts like hell.

I can’t imagine what a piece of wood feels, Charles thought. Before you screw a screw into a piece of wood, you use a hammer and nail to make a little hole to start with, at least that’s what we used to do back in the old days before all these new power drills came out. You don’t need to be much of a man to work any of them. You did back in the old days when you’d get blisters across the palms of your hands and fingers even when you wore gloves until you got used to the work. But before that, you had to work through the soft hands and blisters, if you wanted to get paid. You couldn’t be a pussy about it. Screwing a screw into a two by four frame was hard work, hammering a nail is easier, but we ain’t talking about easy work here.

We’re talking about real men doing real men’s work and by the turn of the last screw you feel you’ve accomplished something.

All that’s easy compared to working on a relationship.

Where screwing is easy.

And you don’t need a power drill to do it.

But the blisters you get on your heart from the hard work you put into it and the pain it leaves on your soul once it’s over and done with that comes from all the hard work you put into it that leaves you empty and distraught is a lot tougher than any job will ever be.

I learned that from the relationships I’ve been in and I guess it’s safe to say each girl learned the same lesson from me, since relationships are a two-way street.

###

“Rivers of Time ”

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flow through me all the time, Charles thought.

I hope they bring us back together, Cassandra thinks.

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“The Wheel of Time”

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never stops turning.

It keeps moving.

Even after our wheels stop.

You were gone before yours stopped.

A memory that fades from time to time but still lives on in me everyday.

Time is funny that way. It keeps moving even when it seems it’s standing still.

“Dragging ass,” we used to call it.

Because even if you were to sit and watch it, you never see it move, even though it’s speeding right passed us.

With every breath you take.

Until your time is up.

###

“The Right to be Wrong”

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I never could figure out Cassandra.

How many times can a person be right in life?

How many times can a person be wrong?

Is there a set number?

Say 50/50?

Maybe 75/25?

Depending on what disposition a person has?

Positive?

Negative?

A balance in between?

Where most people seem to be.

Do the people we hang around with influence us?

The people we don’t?

Some people think they’re never wrong.

Some people are made to feel they’re never right.

It’s a coin toss either way.

Because no one’s ever going to agree with anyone 100% of the time and negate their own points of view on life even if they’re never right all of the time even if no one else is always wrong all the time when you agree with them whether they’re wrong or right or you’re right or wrong and nobody cares. This is the nature of the animals we are.

How cool would it be if everyone just accepted that and let life be life instead of always having to try to prove how right they are all the time when something goes against the general norm as they think the general norm is?

There’s nothing wrong with admitting you’re wrong every once in a while.

I will

if you will

Charles says

and Cassandra smiles.

It doesn’t mean you have to become a different person. It just means you’re not always right all the time, except to you, and no one else.

None of us always follows all the rules of the game that everyone is expected to play.

As if we are all the same.

###

“Closer Than You Think”

###

If it isn’t, it is.

By choice.

I’m standing right in front of you. You just don’t see me.

Yet.

But you will.

Soon.

Right now you’re looking through me as if I’m not here.

But you know me.

I’m you.

I’m lost, yes, like you, lost, in the unknown where no one exists but where everyone who is lost exists, and there isn’t one of us who hasn’t felt lost at one time or the other.

We may find each other one day when we least expect it, if we bother to look.

After all, you are me.

I am everywhere you are.

It doesn’t matter where you are.

Italy.

France.

Spain.

I am there.

Right next to you.

If it is, it isn’t.

But will be.

###

“An Incident of Mind Over Matter”

###

I’ve looked for you around every corner. An empty void is where I travel. It’s how I get from place to place. It’s almost like time travel except I’m in the same time zone just a different location from a moment ago.

It saves time and money that way when you’re in New York one second and the next you’re in San Francisco or anywhere you want to be next.

Rome.

Paris.

London.

You’ll find me.

I’ll meet you there.

###

“Turn the Clock Back”

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I want to go backward.

I want to go forward.

But I must go backward to go forward.

Until we meet again.

Cassandra never knew what I was going to say. Until I said it. But it didn’t matter. She was the same way with me.

What time of the day was it when we first met?

Do you remember?

I don’t want to make the same mistake.

Twice.

And miss you.

###

“If It Flies, Board It”

###

Cassandra made Charles happy, and Charles made Cassandra happy.

But it was a cat and mouse game.

And each was winning in his or her own way.

Charles was an aeronautical engineer at Gateway. When he was away on lecture tours or business elsewhere, he had affairs with as many women as possible as time allowed between trips from St. Louis to New Orleans or New York to San Francisco or elsewhere.

When Charles was away on duty elsewhere outside of Chicago, Cassandra had affairs with numerous men she encountered on her own trips to Atlanta as a flight navigation instructor at Gateway where she and Charles worked and lived together in St. Louis after they met in Harlingen, Texas, when they were students at the College of Flight and Aviation Studies.

Cassandra also taught flight navigation courses in Brunswick, Georgia, seasonally from September to December, where she also had numerous affairs with the other male instructors there as well. She also taught flight instruction studies for Gateway in Los Angeles during summer where she lived with James in his apartment off Sunset in North Hollywood.

While Charles, during these periods, lived with Jane in the flat they shared together when Cassandra was away and he was on duty in Boston.

Charles and Cassandra loved each other deeply.

Their motto, like all lovers, was: It is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.

They planned to marry in the spring.

They hoped to live happily ever after.

Even if they knew that was a pipe dream.

Rarely achieved by anyone.

###

“Nine IX 9”

###

Novo

Neuf

Nueve

Nege

Neun

Tissa

Devet

Nau

Thesha

Tisa

Chin

Mathematically, if that sum were to be cut in half, that’s how fast the world can change in the blink of an eye.

Get it?

Understand?

All right?

We still may be able to avert it

Before we reach ten.

No matter what language we count in.

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“The Journey Ends”

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You ever wish for something you never had and get it and later regret it?

I have.

I’m living it right now.

The vastness of space where I’m at is overwhelming.

I never knew how this gift began.

But I know how it ended.

It began like it ended. I thought about Spain and then I was there.

In Spain!

Barcelona, to be exact.

I don’t know how. I was just there. I could travel anywhere just by thinking and I was there. It ended as mysteriously as it began. I thought about Scotland. Glasgow, this time. I was to meet Cassandra there. We’d planned it, and I figured since I could travel so easily, I’d meet her there and surprise her.

[He surprised her all right.]

[He never showed up.]

I was on my way there when it happened.

All of a sudden!

Nothing.

I’m here … in the middle of … I have no idea where I‘m at. Nothing? The emptiness I usually pass through when I traveled here to there is where I’m stuck now.

My mind keeps racing.

Havana!

New Orleans!

Berkeley!

Hoping against hope to travel anywhere but here. But as mysteriously as it began, it ended, and I’m lost between here and there.

Reality

and

Unreality.

There’s nothing around me, but I know I have to be somewhere, anywhere, other than nowhere, I have to be, there’s – air to breathe, because I’m still alive.

I think.

I was alive a moment ago.

I believe I still am.

But am I?

I don’t know.

This just happened. I’m here, lost. A victim of circumstances beyond my control. Where existence meets… non-existence? Yet I feel alive, or something is keeping me alive, if I’m not actually dead, and I have no idea what’s what beyond that. I don’t remember anything out of the ordinary happening before this happened. But I’m here now in a void of darkness. Did I die along the way and don’t know it? Where am I? Where is this? It’s as if someone’s turned off the lights.

Did the sun die?

Earth?

All the people on it?

How does anyone describe this?

I started my journey, then everything went black.

All of a sudden!

Except my mind.

Where life is

or isn’t

anymore?

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“A Thought on Lost Love”

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Cassandra never heard from Charles again. She never knew what happened to him. She did eventually get over him. Yes, she mourned his loss, wonderingly, over a weekend drink with a stranger she met in a bar in Detroit before going home with him later that evening; she had a fleeting thought while in bed with him that Charles may have run off with Susan who lived in the condo next door to theirs, because she caught Charles one time sizing her up when they were together, when Charles thought she didn’t notice, something they never did, except when one or the other was away on official duties elsewhere, as they often did, but never when they were together, so she easily dismissed that thought from her mind as jealousy; besides, Susan still lived next door, and she knew Charles loved her; so as in any love story, she went on with her life, hoping one day he would return, while knowing he never would.

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“What Is and What Isn’t”

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is not for the faint of heart to know unless it isn’t then it will do no harm.

“I will meet you in Greece,” Charles had told Cassandra earlier that day, “and we’ll honeymoon in Monte Carlo.” Cassandra smiled, they shared a parting kiss, and she left him knowing what prevented Charles from leaving with her, since the groom is not supposed to see the bride the day before they are to marry, while neither knew the consequences that custom would carry, as Cassandra left Charles there, but she didn’t mind because she had plans of her own, like Charles, and knew they would be together afterwards. What neither knew was Charles was to be murdered later that day by the jealous husband of the stewardess who helped make his flight plans for later that evening, who also had no idea that her tryst with Charles would have her husband find her in bed with another man, kill them both, and later bury them in an unmarked grave in the backwoods of Louisiana in St. Charles Parish. He placed their naked bodies one on top of the other, as he found them.

“Rot in hell!” were his parting words to them.

While he pissed on their grave.

Had either had any idea, their plans would have changed. Instead, with death, as is often said in moments like that, Charles’ life flashed before his eyes in a series of jumbled flashes at the exact moment as he ejaculated prior to the moment Jackie’s husband stumbled upon them unexpectedly and caught them in the middle of their liaison and killed them. Charles had his neck broken in the middle of orgasm while he lay atop Jackie unaware of what just transpired, while Jackie, herself at the height of her orgasm, had her face smashed in with the side of Charles’ head. In the same way an orgasm causes one to momentarily lose touch with reality, neither had any recollection of that moment in the bed they shared before Jackie’s husband found them in the middle of their rendezvous. For added measure, her husband put a fireplace poker straight through the side of Charles’ head right between his wife’s eyes, as a parting expression of his anger, and twisted it around, so the spiked part ripped away portions of Charles’ brain and Jackie’s eyes when the poker was yanked out. The effects of the fireplace poker struck that part of the brain experiencing the height of sexual pleasure. It left that moment as the dying image in their minds.

Ghana!

Tibet!

Panama!

And Charles wondering why those intrusive thoughts were there, other than his plan to fly to Greece to meet Cassandra later that day after his tryst with Jackie was over, but not wanting to leave her bed now and, moreover, Jackie not wanting him to leave.

Unknown, wonderingly, Charles felt lost and quite discombobulated about the unusual circumstances he found himself in. Unlike his many trysts before, he has no understanding beyond that and even if he did he had no idea what he would or could do about it. He felt as a person whose life left its body, but was sure he was still alive, but he didn’t know for sure either way, but knew he just had one hell of an orgasm! A total out-of-body experience! What he thought was alive, if life left, was his soul. He was raised religious, but never gave it a second thought, until now, which made him question his relationship with Cassandra.

Steve, Jackie’s husband , was later arrested after family members reported her missing. He claimed he had no idea where Jackie might be, but his annoyed displeasure and abrupt behavior about being questioned over her disappearance told a different story. He was later tried on suspicion of being the only person of interest in connection with her disappearance – that of Jackie’s alone, since no one knew of her tryst with Charles, other than Steve, not even Cassandra – and he was sentenced to 25 years in prison – with the possibility of a life sentence staring him in the face, if her remains were ever found, along with those of Charles. He was released 15 years later, for good behavior, and now resides in Jacksonville, Florida. He continued to maintain his innocence with her disappearance and no evidence was ever found to prove otherwise.

As of this writing, Jackie remains missing and, in a sense, so does Charles, although no one is searching for him, not even Cassandra. Worse, neither has a memory of something they have no recollection of happening beyond their tryst. Charles wants to stay, but knows he has to leave in order to meet Cassandra later this day, but will wait until after the heightened effects of the orgasm he’s experiencing is over, unknown that it never will. As for Jackie, the last thing she remembers is Charles on top of her and both of them exhausted and breathing heavy and now, with nothing beyond that, believes she is still in bed with him, her eyes shut in ecstasy, hoping the moment will never pass but that her husband won’t come home any time soon to find them, which she fears, which would intrude on the revelry and the heightened pleasure she is still experiencing after her bout in bed with Charles and, wanting him to stay, but knows he has to leave, but not now, not at this moment, at least until this heightened feeling of pleasure subsides and before her husband comes home and catches them, unaware of time’s passage, with the reliving of the moments prior to death ongoing, like Charles, unaware of death, let alone atop of Jackie in a grave in the latter stages of decay, while feeling at the same time like a man with a mounting headache the size of the Sudbury Basin knowing he has to leave soon and not sure why unless it’s the residual effects of his time with Jackie and his fear of missing his flight, which was a thought he had prior to his last moments of life when he ejaculated and died at the same moment and all he could attribute to any delay in his plans to meet Cassandra is Jackie and hoping neither she nor her husband will delay time against that, but wondering that both might, in some strange loop of not progressing beyond those romantic moments, like Jackie, with no memory what transpired in those moments, other than the thoughts she was thinking during it with Charles, who was unable to piece together any delay in his flight plans or the fact he didn’t know what he’d tell Cassandra, like Jackie who did not know she would never see Steve again while wondering if she should divorce him and hoping Charles would never leave, but not wanting her husband to catch them in the same thought, and the fact Charles didn’t want to leave, but worried about missing Cassandra, unaware of the fact that he would never see Cassandra again or the fact that she is no longer the woman he remembers with the passage of time and has long since forgotten about him.

Which only goes to prove what he has always thought.

That happiness is rarely achieved in one’s life.

Without consequences.

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