run while you can

Wake and break.

Supporting the city. Icheon, South Korea. Spring 2011.

Ben,

This correspondence is aimed straight at your heart; your skull is too thick to penetrate…
As a boy, you often played in your backyard near the lot-line. This ‘back forty,’ hardly a half acre, housed your ‘treehouse:’ a 2X4 plank of scrap wood that you dug out of the garage and nailed right there in that sorry little cherry tree.
At first you could scarcely climb the tree. You made many attempts before devising the best route: right foot on the half-broken branch, left foot in the trunk’s fat crotch (which still sounds funny to you), and finally, yank your right foot up to the top. Once perched, ‘now what?’ was never a concern. You watched…
Watched the five-o’clock, miniature rush-hour come and go in a matter of minutes, watched birthday parties pass in above-ground swimming pools, watched the neighbor lady lose her voice (those boys of hers were always lighting something on fire or attempting impossible skateboard feats atop step-ladders and garbage cans). By the time you had outgrown the treehouse, it had already outgrown you (RIP, sorry little cherry tree).
You watched without the tree. In fact, you did more watching than playing. Playing was watching.

Watching. Watching is still you. Playing is altogether too free; finding fun, finding happiness is harder now than ever. These kids you teach, between the ages of 13 and 16, seem to have no problem finding fun. They climb bookshelves and run, screaming through the halls. They even get into fights, yea, for fun. The motives for these behaviors are quite hazy to you. There is no benefit in punching Min-Su in the shoulder when he is simply going to turn around and slug you in the chest. Then again, fear of reprimand can be exhilarating.

At age 16, you were riding in the back of pick-up trucks and craving car races. Late at night, you’d swing by your local road service depot and secretly steal street signs. The only proxy was exhilaration, juvenile fun. Moreover, parking lots were appealing hang-outs. You relished having a sandwich ‘hook-up’ at Subway and a girlfriend that could curse fluently. Your core friends were a rag-tag bunch of nobodies, hunters and artists. Fun was something that could be stalked, hog-tied and roasted. Everything was absolute enjoyment.

Happiness. Happiness is not walking around, staring at this foreign land. The signs are too bright; the scenery is too populated. Too often, your apartment window, you stand, watching, staring at the parking lot. On the weekend, you attempt impossible feats on your skateboard. Even more, sometimes you lose your voice, yelling at those students of yours; they are always setting your patience ablaze.
Fun. Fun is not the silence you enjoy. Your books stare at you as you swim in above-ground routine. Routine always seems to bring bad news: bad news from the home front, bad news abroad, bad news in fiction. You wallow as you tell others: ‘wallowing gets you nowhere.’ You would certainly know. ‘Wake up,’ you say desperately; you sure should.
Enjoyment. Enjoyment is not writing letters. Enjoyment is receiving letters. You say, ‘Tell that to the mailman.’ Then you get all confused about calling him a man. You regret telling your students that skirts are for women. You regret that facial expression you wore; the one you couldn’t see but felt, stinging. Be quiet. Then you say it aloud, ‘Be quiet.’

Words addressed to your same ol’ self, from your same ol’ self.
*Snaps the hypnotize.

Julius Keen

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