The Forge is Weld’s monthly creative writing series.
Someday at sometime in someway someone will find a way to bring our faded and old and dust covered memories to reality. They will be delivered in fancy futuristic cases and these places and times we all but forgot, sometimes tried to forget, will be tangible and held in our old calloused palms, cradled like a newborn. And we will cry. And laugh. And everything.
But until then we have a history of places, street signs and sulfur orangey lights and fragrances and shorelines and long forgotten starry skies over roadways that will have to do. Seconds of our lives that ticked by we keep hidden, brought out ever so often to remind us there are places that aren’t here. We can stare off at infinite railroads or planes leaving their small smoke trails across the sky, see people we do not know and hope for a better life or at least hope our lives are better than theirs.
Just the other day I drove down a road I didn’t know. Some country road, with its own twists and turns and rusted trailers and old brick houses. Mailboxes advertising the addresses of houses which aren’t there anymore, and those houses that remained, decayed and infected with kudzu crawling over them like slow moving hands from the earth reclaiming land. In those old places, people once had families and raised children and prayed over meals and kissed each other to bed. And that road was there long before me and will be after I leave it.
And in those moments I was on that new road I could see everything so clearly. The speeding yellow dashes in the middle of the road, the white streaks on the side, the green of trees congealing into this map of life. And it was old and it was parched and it was crackling on the edges and bends and folds. This old map was surveyed and known before my time, old plumb lines and measurements drawn by a hand not my own. And it was laid out before me on that road and I saw that some lines were straight and went on for some time, and some lines were crooked and jagged like a heartbeat. Some lines meandered off the edges of the paper and there were crosshatches marking significant whatnots and there was one line that went for a ways then stopped. It always stops, I suppose. Just like that. And I could see my future and my past as grid marks. Run my finger down to A7 and I knew that is when I was burned as a child. Or follow M4 and that is when I told someone I loved them for the first time.
I found myself on this old road with old people and old houses and old trees and the whole realm was terrifying. Being so young in such an old place, youth surrounded by age. Like being a new ring in an old tree. But it was also incredibly peaceful to feel history wrap me in its old moth-ravaged blanket and hold me. I cooed like a baby. So did a bird somewhere.
At this exact moment in the present someone is being born and someone is dying. Someone is saying “I love you” and someone else is saying “I don’t anymore.” Some are giving up or giving in. Some are gritting their teeth.
My hope for this story, my hope for my entire life, is that a little bit of that all will happen. To have scars and smiles and tears and hugs and kisses, to feel again.
I saw a man at peace once. Having all of those things. This old man from my small hometown. He was always old, looked the same, in the same place always, salt and peppery tightly curled hair, in a dark green shirt by the side of the road on his porch. I know that he had to go inside his house, had meals in there and a family, but to me he will always be on that porch waving at every passing car, every friend and ever stranger, strapped to that wheelchair because he only had one leg. And he appears happy, even joyous.
Everywhere you go has a story. Same goes for every person you meet. They are all different, but I reckon every story ends about the same.
I’ve lived in different countries, different time zones. I’ve spent my day wasting away atop a mountain, afraid I’d never see home again, flying over seas and continents without grasping the idea of what I was doing, or how high I was. I was moving from Point A to Point B and some points in between. I was homeless for a while, ate out of trash cans, lived in cars, told a person I loved them, they didn’t return the favor. I grew up on a small farm in South Alabama and had my first hangover in New York City after chasing what I believed to be Fabio through Times Square. I’ve seen people die, I’ve seen others born. I’ve watched friends who I thought were blood brothers drift away as nothing more than acquaintances and others who I couldn’t stand become thick as thieves with me. And these are all stories to be told, to tell you, either through reading it or over a glass of whatever you’re having.
All in all, I’d say life so far has had its ups and downs, and I suppose that’s what life does. The ebb and flow, the back and forth, whether geography or the waves of the ocean, the whole world seems to be in that give and take of balance.
Sean Patrick Kirby is a writer, a musician, a poet, a filmmaker, a brother, a son, a future husband and a friend. He has published two novels and some poetry. He writes because there is hope for a tree cut down. He settled seven years ago in Birmingham, Alabama because he believes there is magic here.
Send creative writing submissions to The Forge to firstname.lastname@example.org.