The House

Tear through all my memories.
Go on, rip them apart.
I can’t wait to leave this place.
This is my chance for a fresh start.

There’s nothing here but heartache
And ghosts of tragedies we’ve faced.
I’ve already got one foot out the door,
I’m so very ready for this clean slate.

So, sure, I’ll tell you about this house.
For me, it never really was a home.
Maybe for you, it will be more
Than just wood and steel and stone?

Yes, right back here is the garden
My grandma loved it so
She worked so hard and I’d help
Pick the string beans and tomatoes.

But, yeah, that was just a small part
Of the life that I lived here.
Though that one was a good memory
Mostly I only remember the tears.

Oh, you want to see the basement?
This is where my Mom and grandparents made
Fresh tomato sauce with those from the garden
And jarred it up for later days.

And here is where grandma taught me
How to make fresh pasta from scratch with dough.
Mostly I’d just play with mine,
But she said I’d be her helper when I was grown.

And this is where we’d celebrate
Thanksgiving every year.
Actually, wait, can you hold on?
I think I have a video of it here…

And this is where I used to sleep
And the foghorn lulled me into rest.
It’s really lovely to grow up by the sea and…
Wait, what is this feeling in my chest?

Was I wrong? Does this place mean more to me?
It IS the only house I’ve ever known…
Twenty-nine years of hopes and fears
Built to pick up and move on with the seeds we’ve sown.

Yes, most of the things I remember
Are things I would much rather forget.
But now I see good memories
Are strewn about with all the rest.

So, goodbye, old house of mine.
I hope your new people treat you right.
This is where the people I loved most lived.
This is where I built my life.

 

Jack Mason, 2017

This Did Not Go as Intended

It all started with a ransom note and a wristband.

My friend, Kat, asked me a few weeks back if she could have a wristband sent to my house as a favor to her. I told her that this was fine, and I sent her a message when it arrived. Since she was bogged down with finals, she completely forgot to come pick it up.

I hadn’t heard from her in a week, so I decided to have fun while reminding her that I still had her wristband.

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P.S. KISSES!

We had a good laugh and she told me she’d take me out for coffee in a little while.

She showed up at my house a couple of hours later, and we went to a drive-thru. After we got our drinks, we began to drive around for a bit when we noticed a dirt path that we had never driven through before. This is something that Kat and I do occasionally. We see roads and trails off the beaten path and will drive through it to explore.

“Hm, never been through there before,” Kat said.

“Fuck it. Let’s go!” I replied.

There were a couple of gigantic, glaring flaws in this plan, however. Firstly, Kat and I are dumbasses and we thought it would be cool to be adventurers to begin with. Secondly, neither of us took into account the fact that this was a dirt path and that it had been raining all day. Not even as we began to drive up the muddy, flooded trail. Not even still when I said, “You know, if we get stuck, it’ll be terrifying, but there would be a ten second period of time where it would be hilarious.”

I swear on everything I hold dear to me that I said this. And, no. It wasn’t hilarious. Not even for one second. I didn’t even get to finish this statement before we were deeply sunk into the mud.

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Lewis and Clark would be proud.

We totally deserved to be stuck there and to panic and to reevaluate every decision we have ever made in our entire lives. I know that I did when I got out to push the car.

Fortunately, my personality is such that if I am in a situation that would usually greatly upset me or make me extra anxious, but the person I am in the situation with is upset first, I switch immediately to “Hero Mode.” My need to ensure that my companion is OK and remains calm far outweighs any impulse to freak out, myself. So, when Kat almost began to cry and have a panic attack, I suggested that she put the car in reverse and that I would go out and push it. For a moment, it seemed like it would actually work. The car did move back an inch or two. But, unfortunately, it also got the car further lodged into the muddy ditch.

After about a half hour trying various gears and pushing the car, we stood out in the rain, looking over this very sorry situation in which we got ourselves. Kat was now evermore panic-stricken, and we were no closer to getting out of there. That’s when the lightbulb went off in my head.

“Kat, do you have AARP?” I said. I took a moment, realized I was very, very wrong, and said, “No, I meant Triple-A?”

After assuring Kat that her aunt (through whom she leases her car and has insurance) would not find out about this situation if she called Triple-A, we got back in her car and made the call. Within ten minutes, we received a phone call from the guy that was there to assist us. He couldn’t find us, however, because we were a bit of the way down the dirt path, away from the actual road. In order to properly guide him, Kat left to meet him at the entrance and I found myself alone. Allow me to set the scene.

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“I’m not saying I’d like to build a summer home here, but the trees are actually quite lovely.”

Overgrown plants on either side of me. The windows were foggy at the time that Kat left me. She left the driver’s side door open, and, through the foliage, I noticed a very large body of water. As my mind played tricks on me, I briefly thought to myself, So, this is how it ends.

After being by myself for a few minutes and picturing Satan popping up in front of the car, I called Kat to see what was going on. As soon as she answered, I heard the beep, beep, beep of a large vehicle in reverse. She got out of the truck and back in the car.

“I told him I’d marry him if I wasn’t so gay,” was the first thing she said to me when she got back in. The next was to tell me that he was a surly and wonderful man.

He truly was both of these things. The first words I heard him speak were, “Aw, great. Now I have to get in the mud.” After I apologized with a nervous laugh, he waved me off with a chuckle. “This isn’t the worst I’ve done, I can tell you that.”

Eventually, we wound up on the flatbed of the truck so he could take us out of that godforsaken place. Thankfully, I was still in Hero Mode, so I was momentarily able to shrug off my extreme fear of heights and enjoy what was kind of a cool (albeit completely avoidable) experience. Kat and I both started laughing, realizing that we had made it out of what could have been a very bad situation.

He took us to a small, empty, nearby parking lot to let us off the flatbed. At his request, Kat took a lap around the lot to make sure there wasn’t any damage that would pose an immediate problem. It felt like we were on our way to Victory Lane at Daytona. When he finished telling her everything that she would need to do to make sure the car was one hundred percent, Kat bear-hugged him and said, “You’re such a good dude!”

When we began driving again after saying our farewells, we finally noticed how muddy and gross we were. My sneakers, which are partially velour, had mud caked onto them, and her pants and shoes were a mess. So we went to the nearby Target for new pants and shoes, but not before jumping in puddles to attempt to dislodge the mud. Predictably, that didn’t work and we only really succeeded in making our socks wet.

After going around and picking out what we needed, we both went into the large, “Family” restroom to get changed. She took off her jeans and immediately threw them into the trash bin. As I turned around to look through the bag and grab my new pair of socks and shoes, I heard Kat turn on the sink. The sound of the water was followed immediately by her stressed voice, saying, “Oh, no! Jack, I wet my pants! Can you go into the other bathroom and dry them for me?” I agreed, taking the pants with the belief that it was only a small wet patch.

For what was likely the fourth time that night, I was very wrong. I was in the restroom, by myself, for twenty minutes trying to dry sweatpants that turned out to be soaked. I had a self-aware moment, and began to laugh uncontrollably, just before one of the workers entered. This only made me laugh more, because I knew I must have looked like a crazy person. Then, realizing how insane I looked, I did the completely normal thing to do and explained myself, totally out-of-the-blue.

“I’m not crazy. It’s just been a night and these pants are wet.”

“Oh… OK?”

I let her leave first as a courtesy before accepting defeat that the pants couldn’t get any drier than what I had already managed. I returned to the single restroom and handed Kat her now-damp pants. She took them, looked at them for a moment, and then sighed.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

She shook her head and said, “Man, now I really have to pee.”

After a moment of silence, I shrugged and said, “You know what? Go for it. That wouldn’t be the weirdest thing that’s happened tonight.”

As she peed, I put my new socks and shoes on. As I lean up against the wall for support while doing this, Kat suddenly looked at me. She said, with more sincerity than I’ve ever heard before, “Jack? You know something?”

I look back at her and say, “What is it, Kat?”

“If you weren’t already one of my best friends, you definitely would be after tonight.”

“I know, Kat. I know.”

 

Jack Mason, 2017

 

 

Lost Time

I am awake.

There is no purpose,
Nothing that requires my attention.
My eyelids remain only half shut.
They know not to interrupt me.

I am awake.

It is not that I don’t want sleep,
Because I do yearn for it
As my muscles ache
And plead for the comfort of my pillows;
The warmth of my blankets.

I am awake.

I’m awake because so much of my time
Is robbed from me
And this is how I take it back.
The clutches of rest will not grab me.
I remain defiant,
Even as dawn approaches.

I am awake.
This time is mine.

 

Jack Mason, 2017

On Life’s Terms

Trudging down the sidewalk,
One foot after one,
Enter the lobby, push the button,
Wait for the lift to come.

Get up to the office,
Quietly take your seat,
Begin to struggle through your day,
And tomorrow, we’ll repeat.

There’s barely time for anything
That doesn’t make a dime.
And no one will care how you feel;
You can’t break down on company time.

Is this what you imagined
When you would drift off to sleep?
When you were a child did you dream
Of the corporate ladder much too steep?

Or did you dream of other things
That you’d grow up to be?
A doctor? A fire fighter? Maybe a vet?
That now seems out of reach?

Why is it so common
To give up on your dreams?
There’s an expiration on imagination
So we lie to our kids, it seems.

We tell them they can be anything,
To follow their hearts and minds.
That is until they get “too old”
And their hopes just have to die.

Why is it so weird, so wrong
For someone to want to do more?
To want to be more than ordinary,
Like so many have been before?

And who decided on these terms,
And who decided we all agree?
Birth certificates sign a contract
We never even got to read.

Looking at the world this way,
It all seems rather mad.
So tell me is it any wonder
Why so very many are so sad?

 

Jack Mason, 2017

 

The Lighter Side of OCD

Have you ever done something out of impulse? Something so stupid and really pointless in the grand scheme of things, but you just had to do it? Or has something really trivial annoyed you to such an extent that you were equally –or doubly– annoyed with yourself for how much it irritated you? Did you almost feel a little crazy because of this thing you did or saw?

I’ve suffered from OCD since I was about twelve-years-old. On good days, it’s a minor nuisance. On bad days, it can cause anxiety and panic attacks so bad that you feel like the whole world is out to get you. Though my last relationship ended for multiple reasons, one of the contributing factors from my end was how bad my OCD had been during that time. My biggest obsession is self-cleanliness, particularly my hands. My compulsion –in other words, how I deal with it– is to wash my hands so thoroughly that I look like a surgeon preparing for the OR. I know this is what it looks like because of the countless people who have made this joke in public restrooms. And I carry hand sanitizer around with me, so I am always prepared for the possibility of soap and water not being readily available. It’s become to me what an inhaler is to an asthma patient, even if only to help me breathe easier just knowing I have it on me in case it’s needed.

Other “obsessions” are just things that annoy me. They’re pet-peeves that get to me more than they probably should. Like when I see someone write “should of” or “could of” instead of “should’ve/should have” or “could’ve/could have.” Or when people don’t feel that Oxford commas are necessary. However, there are times where I know I’m being completely unreasonable, and the rational voice in my brain that tries its hardest to help me function as close to standard normalcy as possible clashes with the part of me that wants to scream or punch things because of a small grammatical error (that I am sure I’ve made, myself, before) or something along the same vein. One such incident happened to me recently.

My brother received a small amount of money and told me that he would be sending me a portion through PayPal. However, it would take a couple of days for his check to fully clear. In the meantime, he bought dinner that night and used his card to pay for the order. I can only assume that he had placed it on the coffee table after he completed the transaction. At some point, it managed to get placed on an end table by one of my books, which blocked it from view. Ironically, I now realize that I probably saw it just sitting there and absent-mindedly placed it by my book to make sure we didn’t lose it.

We each searched for the card once my brother realized that it was missing later that night. We overturned couch cushions, threw pillows around, and rearranged boxes packed with belongings ready for our move, but we could not find this card anywhere. He checked his wallet at least five times. I checked mine on the off chance that I had placed it in there, considering our cards are the same color. When we continuously turned up nothing, we began to panic.

Because it was late and we each had to be up early the next morning, we decided to resume our search when we each returned home the following night. Much of the same happened until I glanced over by the book, which I hadn’t touched since the card had gone missing, and I saw the shining logo of the credit card company on it. After I pulled the card out, we were both relieved, and my brother sat down to send me the money. He told me he wrote a note on it and to let him know when I checked my account.

For the sake of this story, I’ll say he was going to send me $20. The next day, I logged onto my account and saw that he sent me $19.99. The note he wrote on it stated that “the bank” deducted one cent as a charge for losing his card. I had two instantaneous and entirely opposite reactions to seeing this. The first was to laugh, because I thought it was really funny. The second was to hyper-focus on that 99 cents and stew in my irritation over the incompleteness of it.

The rational side of my brain said, “That was a cute joke!”

The OCD said, “Why would he do this to me!?” In some ways, although I was irritated, the dramatic nature of this thought made me laugh more.

I sent him a text alerting him that I checked my account and the predicament in which I now found myself; all at once entirely amused and so irritated that I almost began scratching the armrests of my chair. He responded with, “Hahaha I’M SORRY!!”

I told him that, even though it was funny, it wasn’t funny at all. A couple of minutes later, he told me to check my account again. He sent me the remaining cent and attached a note that “upon further review, the bank will waive the fee.” Seeing just the one cent there also annoyed me, but nowhere near as much. I began laughing again when I tried to transfer it to my bank, only to discover that the lowest amount I could send was a dollar. I sent another text telling him that the penny was now in limbo and it was all his fault. His response made me laugh harder, because now he was irritated by the penny having to stay in “purgatory.”

In our irritation, we initially had a little bit of difficulty coming up with a plan. He asked if I just wanted him to send 99 cents. I told him I just wanted the penny and that would leave me with a dollar more.

“So just give me a GOD DAMN SINGLE!!” he sent back to me.

At this point, I was laughing uncontrollably at the sheer ridiculousness of the situation. I told him that didn’t make sense, because that would mean I still wouldn’t get the penny. Mind you, I don’t care about not having a penny, but at this point, it was just the principle of the matter. That poor, lone cent was trapped and by God, I would rescue it. In the end, he sent me a full dollar so that I could transfer the funds and give him the dollar bill to make it even.

I once read a fortune on a Bazooka Joe comic strip that said, “Happy is the one that can look in the mirror and laugh.” Although my OCD causes me a great deal of distress most of the time, I am able to occasionally take a step back and look at silly situations like this that it plays a part in creating, and genuinely find it hilarious. I was annoyed, but I had a good laugh, and I’ll take all the laughs I can.

Whereas I can’t say that I’m grateful for my OCD, nor will I raise a glass to toast it any time soon, I do sincerely enjoy the few moments like this where there is levity and humor that would not have happened if not for its presence.

 

Jack Mason, 2017

 

 

MMA

This thing that I love
so very much
is all at once easy and difficult to explain.

You know when you have a new lover,
And all of your friends tell you they don’t know
what you see in her?
That you can do better?
Because maybe she isn’t conventionally attractive,
but damn, if she isn’t gorgeous to you.

To me, that’s what it feels like
every single time
I try to tell people about why I love MMA.

What you see and what I see are so vastly different
that our respective eyes might as well be speaking different languages.
You see barbarism and blood.
I see beauty.
You see violence and pain,
while I see precise precision, a puzzle,
a chess match where the stakes have never been higher.

Something you might hear a lot of fighters say
is that you can learn everything about a person
during a fight in fifteen minutes or less.
You can know more about what this person is made of
what drives them
in mere moments when you’d never know any of this
in fifteen years of friendship.

I am so envious of this.
I am envious because I am not built for the cage.
My hands are too small,
my shoulders are too narrow.
And though there are plenty of fighters who are small,
Demetrious Johnson I am not.
Joanna Jędrzejczyk I am not.
And it hurts me to know
that I will never get to know another human being that deeply.

It hurts me to know that there are people
who will look at my lover and take her for face value.
They do not see how she lifted me and held me
during one of the worst times of my life.
They cannot understand how she, of all things,
could have been so comforting.
They will see her as nothing more
than two savages trying to beat each other up.

But the joke is on you
because, in this sport, being called a savage
is one of the highest compliments you can receive.
No, we are not delusional.
Yes, we know it’s violent.
No, it is not barbaric.
Yes, it is an art.

I know that I can talk until I’m blue in the face
and it won’t matter.
It’s not for everyone.
And that’s OK.
But friends, please understand,
that just because you don’t,
It doesn’t mean my lover is everything you think or you say.

 

Jack Mason, 2017