Michael Johnson (Lincoln, NE)
I have glimpsed in my dream last night that which may be no more than a dream. It comes, from somewhere in the sands of time, moving its liquid thighs, sloughing through the air and rippling through meadows to woods, minds to words. It is:
Not quite a freedom because of the great weight of debt— the debt of prize livestock to their farmers.
The untethered salad days.
It abides in the future, within the coming stretch of three months who’s like I may never see again. A time in which I will be able to do anything and be cared for in everything. All the responsibilities of youth (read none); all the freedoms of adulthood.
This was my dream: The lot of us, I and my friends, we were out, on a farm somewhere. Exploring, talking, doing, all with the purpose that a certain sort of passionate purposelessness brings. The sun was shining, the hillsides were growing— it was palpably, subtly Summer— and the same as our usual brand of unquestioned reality.
More than tawdry, clichéd Summer. It wasn’t even vacation. Unshackled from high school and true youth; Promised to our separate colleges? Ha! They are promised to us and two times ringless fingers braid the blue sky.
We were in the country and our bellies were full. Check our wallets for credit cards and trace them to our parents to find where we still call home— a digital vestige of our umbilical cords. Our hair was combed. The women (Women!) bared their shoulders for sun’s sake, shade’s sake, sweat’s sake, self’s sake. The men (Men! Add some wonder to that exclamation point and you’ll be reading it right) were unshaved.
The women bared their shoulders, I among their rank, and the men went unshaved.
This is carelessness and vanity, not sex.
But I drank it in, nonetheless. Innocent attraction; the facts of life and no one there to demonize the eyelashes, scratchy stubble, soft lips, or adam’s apples that nature had seen fit to call good.
We gallivanted: ‘scaping ‘cross ‘scapes, adding abuse to the apostrophe.
We found each other and we found our cars and we sped off to wherever we wanted to or needed to go. There was gas in our tanks.
Let me say that again: There was gas in our tanks! Check our credit card histories; you know it to be true!
There was gas in our tanks and dust in our lives. Thick coats of grit, stuck to the birth slime coating our napes and crowns and hackles and— all over is what I’m trying to say.
There was dust in our lives— enough to write in, to draw stick figures and penises in, enough to still be washed off, enough to show we were healthy, that we’d been places.
We could try to wash it off (why would we though?) but the dust was stuck beneath shirtstraps, busily browning elastic waistbands and humorously ageing beards— Ha! As if anything could age us! Finally, I understand the mystical “Youth” that is spoken of. For all my life, and all my life for the next two months until I turn eighteen, I have been youth, known youth, and heard of Youth, that which is bought at a Peruvian fountain, that which is drained from a chalice, that which is sucked from the marrow and the teats of life; That which all of the “Adult” world craves.
Well, now I finally understand.
I don’t want to pretend I am an expert. I have had a premonition, that is all.
But this freedom is not real— we are not truly without debt and if we think so, we are ignorant.
A calf can never repay its mother’s milk.
In fact, no matter what, we are all ignorant as we go into this next world, no matter what admissions days at colleges want us believe, no matter what books we buy from the campus book store, no matter how many non threatening upperclassmen named Lisa or Eric call us with easy voices and multicultural last names, we are ignorant.
And we are ignorant of the next one when we come out of it.
And hey, I’m down with that.
It’s the natural progression, that’s all.
And the depth of all possible ‘ignorance’ is so deep, the pit so steep, that those darling small ripples made when we tossed a stone— just to see what would happen— are made all the more valuable by considering what you have, rather than what is still to be gained.
I guess what I’m saying is
I’ll have to make some ripples and
Time runs. I’ll will find where its many legs are taking me soon enough.