The rattle of loose metal from the bed of a pick-up cuts through the cool dry air. The sticky rubber rolls quickly over asphalt and creates a low hum. Palm tree fronds sway and brush against one another in the wind. Masked people walk the pavement below. In the background, fading green mountains with bare patches, like skin, sinfully peeking through the foliage.

I remain still. I watch and listen and feel. My hunger for skin has heightened my senses—made a lover of all that surrounds me.

The solitude held him together—gently bearing and balancing the weight of flesh and bone and mind and soul. Silence, he thought to himself, changes its tone from one moment to the next, it is, like love, never a static thing.

Sitting, staring out of the window, he realized that he was less interested than he once was in seeking answers to questions that belonged to the realm of mystery. He craved paradox and prayed for the strength to take up residence there.

He heard his belly grumble. He looked up at the lamps—glowing orbs in his tiny borrowed palace. He was hungry but did not crave. He longed for touch while grateful for solitude. He wished to belong and to remain apart. He resisted the temptation to resolve these contradictions. That, he thought, would be too easy—a dull psychological exercise. He chose, instead, to follow the wisdom of his belly and prepare lunch.

Little boy, it is so easy for you to feel unloved. I see you watching the faces, scanning the world with those sad brown eyes. Little boy, I see you are already learning to hold back your heart so that it won’t get broken again. It is already so big. Little boy, I see you hide yourself away, secretly hoping you will be found. Little boy, I see your arms getting stronger so that you may hold tightly to the love you hope will come. Look here. Look in my direction. The love is right here. My strong arms were also made for loving embraces. My heart is also big—big enough to hold both of us.

I am an animal—as ready to snarl as I am ready to whimper, tail between legs, in the shadows. Longing for a cage. A container. If I lower my guard I will be eaten, beaten, injured. I restlessly and vigilantly smell, listen, watch. Hiding. Alone.

Have the things around me betrayed me or I them? I look through my window–the mountains blanketed by the morning light. I beg them to touch me. Nothing. I feel like a jilted lover. I turn to the digital world–my cold, but placating, mistress. Endless movie menus and news sites and….nothing. Twenty minutes have passed and I have been scrolling without looking. Restlessness. Fear. Panic. Indecision. I picture myself lifting weights. I picture myself walking. My body goes limp. It rejects me as well. So I turn to this…which amounts to….what?

A scream from an unreachable place. A shout. A plea to the universe or god or something/someone for help. And it is not fame or riches for which I pray. I ask for a return to myself. To that imperfect, unexciting but soulful place.

Sacred acts disfigured. Ocular opiates made of 1’s and 0’s. An economy of digital skin. A desperate grasp for intimacy. Unlimited choices in lieu of sensuality and vulnerability. A quixotic hunt for the one. A distorted sense of freedom and control. The find. Grey robotic tugs. The splash. The clean up. A soulful longing cheapened. A leadened heart. Emptiness.

I awake and deliberately position my body so that I sit on the the side of the bed. Standing up in the morning is an event for which I must prepare. I enviously imagine an able-bodied child popping out of bed on Christmas morning—no rituals or transitions. Fluidity. Life force expressed without limitations. I can no longer rouse myself from bed like a young man, there are inflamed joints and aching muscles and the accumulation of a lifetime of injuries. For a moment I understand why we turn away from the aged.

People think and speak of life and death poetically and philosophically. Poetry, literature, myth and religions have been created to help us cope with and, conversely, add to the mystery and depth of our mortality. But nobody wants to witness the insidiously awkward and slow march to the grave.

I look down at my pillow and see a blood stain—large, encrusted; like dried out mud on pavement. I lift the pillow case and see that it has soaked through to the pillow itself. I gently place the palm of my hand to the back of my head and search for the wound. I go to the mirror and see that my nose and beard are stained with blood. I feel a momentary sense of relief—better a bloody nose than another infected head cyst.

On my walks I frequently see a woman who appears to be in her 80’s or 90’s. Everyday she shuffles the uneven leaf strewn sidewalks on a walker. Always alone. It is…beautiful. Breathtaking for reasons I cannot articulate. Perhaps it is her dignity and the grace that god bestows upon it. I greet her whenever I can. She looks at me kindly and says hello. The lovely young joggers with their firm bottoms and swishing pony tails do not register me. And I, for the most part, do not heed them. The hyper-masculine white men walk past as though it would be a weakness to bestow kindness upon another man. I play the masculinity game with them for my own safety. But she…she graces me with her attention and I give her mine. I am grateful.