Sticky Fingers

Come home to me.

And by home I mean let’s take a road trip and drive until we’re in the middle of nowhere four states over in whichever direction and once there, we can sit with music playing and count the stars.

This can be when we camp, like I promised so long ago, and that night, with takeout food from some random diner on the side of a road ten miles back, we’ll be one with the wind.

We won’t use our phones, we won’t update our blogs or news feeds, and we’ll just be. Wine coolers and cheap beer; we can try and make a fire, or just make s’mores with our lighters, because nothing else but the gooey marshmallow between our fingertips will matter.

The cloudless night sky, even if it rains, will invite us in and keep us warm, safe from the harsh sunlight ’til morning, when we pack our stuff up and go. We don’t have to go home, but we won’t stay there, because it would ruin the magic – the magic of one night of not being plugged in, one night without thinking consciously.

And when the stars align, they’ll form a window. A window into another place, one from which we observe. There’ll be people, tiny like ants, carrying baggage thrice the size of what should be their hearts’ heaviest loads, powerful legs dragged through the grainy crust of the earth.

And the ants will make signs in the ground they’ll go on to call crop circles, blaming the aliens for the reveal of their innermost problems. And these crop circles, these foreign ideas function as windows in turn, cutting away the crust of a sandwich not overly dissimilar to the collective conscious, but different enough to be separate. The crust keeps the things inside from falling out.

Then, if a hole punctures the Earth’s crusts, lava will flow from one window to another, mixing dark reds with brilliant oranges, magentas with faded greys, and when they dry, the ants will move. They’ll lift their fragmented, fossilized baggage onto their shoulders and continue trudging through the sandy plains, stopping not even for a clear spring.

Even if blue skies are coming, they won’t know because the heavens are too high up for people so grounded to find. Locked behind bars, the windows are for looking into, not leaping out of.

Then, an ant falls.

An ant stumbles, and its baggage spills every where, like the time you spilled chocolate milk on your bed at eleven o’clock on a Friday night, when your babysitter thought you were asleep and she was making a phone call in the bathroom you couldn’t quite understand. The suitcases break up like the graham crackers you had left on your bed, and even though you weren’t sure what to do, you knew you couldn’t interrupt that phone call, and mommy and daddy couldn’t find out about the milk you weren’t supposed to be drinking.

It’s easy enough for an ant to carry a roll of paper towels, but it’s hard to obtain them, making cleaning a spill harder than anticipated, especially when you realize paper products, no matter what the commercial said on Saturday morning in between Pokémon and Power Rangers, can’t stand up to the viscosity and heat of flowing lava, hot like the tears your baby brother cried from his stroller in the ditch, abandoned by he whom he looks up to, like an ant looks up to a boot before it’s crushed, mercilessly, on the heel.

So you struggle to clean the mess on your bed while your brother sirens in the distance, needing to be fed, but the babysitter’s still in the bathroom talking on the phone in odd, hushed, fevered tones, and your parents are out somewhere, again. Working, maybe, sleeping, maybe, running, maybe. And when you hear that little voice inside of you say, it’s okay, the pillow might make everyone feel better, that whatever magic’s in air isn’t worth it, you try and scrub the milk a little harder, no matter how futilely the paper breaks and burns.

The secret to ants is their teamwork, my dear. They don’t do anything alone, and that’s where the ants are smarter than us and our boots. We go at it alone, like boats off the radar in uncharted, unclaimed water. We sail forward until, like clockwork, we’re struck by lightning when we thought we had already reached the eye of the storm, and everything crumbles. We don’t want anyone cleaning up our spilt milk, especially if it’s chocolate. Someone else needs a diaper changed or to rekindle lost romance, so we trudge forth, onward through the lava’s current, legs crumbling like those goddamned graham crackers you wanted so badly.

The ants help each other, and somehow everyone else figured that out, and we’re stuck, stuck in our self-inflicted moats, treading water in the chocolate milk, crying ourselves to sleep that night, hands sticky with shame, cheeks enflamed with loneliness, and the quiet acceptance of a time forgotten when you woke up the morning after the spill and you knew your parents never came to tuck you in, or kiss you goodnight, because if they had there wouldn’t still be paper towels on your bed, a discarded cup in the corner of your room by the rocking chair, or the stale scent of milk on your sheets.

He pushes everything off his bed and grabs his stuffed tiger – what’s another half-pound of luggage? He picks up the cup, setting it on the nightstand before settling in the rocking chair and looking out the window of his mile-high bedroom. The day had already started, cars like ants on the pavement, and he knew soon he’d have to play the part of guilty child who misbehaved for the babysitter and ignored the baby, the one who pulls the cat’s tail and sits on the blind-dog as it tries to make its way to food, the child who draws pictures on menus in the permanent marker he found next to his mother’s secret calendar.

And if he were an ant, he wouldn’t have to, and even though you’re not an ant, you don’t have to, because we’re looking out of the same window and it’s a miracle that someone’s noticed. Somewhere, between the soft touches and the harsh drags, we’ll figure something out, some way to clean up all the chocolate milk we let each other drink in bed. We can wash each other’s hands of their permanent stickiness, struggle to find the money for rent and food together, because when one of us leans, the other will run a mile and soon we won’t remember before, for the long-term memory trail of ants is but twenty minutes, and it takes more than twenty minutes for the light of a far-away star to shut a window.


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