November 16

            Solve the mystery. Figure it out. Don’t give up. Your very life depends on it.

            I don’t have time to figure out the crossword puzzle of my life today. I have to pay bills. 

            Paying rent for the last three months. 

            Paying five different publishers for the books they’ve sent. 

            And my apartment rent and my shitty business Comcast bill and my f****** personal Comcast bill and maybe let’s give Comcast a piece of my soul since it feels like they suck it out of me day after day after day . . .  

            Wow that’s strong there, Nolan. But why spell out “shitty” and censor “f******” with asterisks? 

            I pay so many bills that my little windfall yesterday seems like a slight dent. Skipping a rock over the surface of the water and watching it with glee five or six or seven times until it sinks and the ripples spread out and then disappear. And you look around for another rock to throw and you can’t find any. 

            So the day is disappearing when Cameron comes in. It’s the afternoon turning into evening so this is a bit unusual for him. 

            “I’ve did some sleuthing around and found out some curious things,” Cameron says. 

            Cool. This is interesting, right? This is a little bit compelling, right? Solving mystery time commenced. 

            “What’d you find?” I ask. 

            “Who gave you this shit?”

            I stand and look at him and he’s suddenly looking very, very serious. 

            “What?”

            “These names? Where’d you get them?”

            I try to remember and all I can think of was I found them written down. In bad handwriting. Not my handwriting.

            “They were written out by someone,” I say. 

            “Yeah, but who?”

            Why can’t I remember? Where are my notes? 

            “Why?”            

            “Because I seriously almost got killed last night.”

            Cameron’s not the kind to come in and start cursing out loud but he unleashes with a new f-bomb. 

            “What do you mean?”

            “Okay,” he says, pulling out the list and then wiping his forehead. 

            God he looks like he’s having a panic attack. 

            “The first here—Bryson. He spotted me checking him out about two minutes after I saw him. He came up to me in my car and knocked on the window and was like ‘what the f*** are you doing’ and then saying he’d kick my ass if I didn’t take off.”   

            “What’d he look like?” I ask. 

            I’m imagining a big, scary-looking dude. 

            “He looks like the star of a Nickelodeon show.”

            I laugh but have no idea how to picture that. “You know—I don’t have kids, so–”

            “The guy is as skinny as a ruler and resembles some preppy wimpy idiot and he’s threatening me like he’s The Rock.”

            “So your manhood felt insulted?” I ask, trying to joke. 

            “Yeah, funny,” Cameron says. “Then I looked up Otis. And I realized that the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future didn’t change Scrooge, ‘cause he’s alive and well in Appleton.” 

            “Older, crankier guy?” 

            “Oh, yeah. Like, seriously. This time, I was trying to find an address I’d seen online. Trying was the right word because I had no idea what I’d find and I’m out—I was by the quarry looking around—and this guy shows up. This old weird guy and he basically tells me if I don’t leave he’s going to be kicking me up for dinner that night.”

            I laugh. I guess I shouldn’t since Cameron actually took me at my word and went to work but still. What’s he talking about? 

            “So—seriously. What’d he say?”

            “Nolan—he said something about me being a kid and then said and I’ll quote: ‘Leave now or you’re going to end up being the leftover parts in my stew tonight.’ And I swear I’m almost quoting him word for word.”

            “Maybe he’s just watched To Make a Murderer too many times,” I joke, but even I know the joke’s not going to get a good response.             

            “Yeah, well, Mr. Making A Murderer wasn’t the weirdest. Then I tracked down this guy named Lee Fleisher. And that’s when . . .”

            Cameron stops, stares back at the front door and windows, then scans the rest of the store. 

            “What are you doing?” I ask. 

            “I drive up to the address of his place in Geneva and I see this guy walking out of his garage wearing these coveralls from head to toe—the kind they wore in Breaking Bad when they’re making the meth—he’s decked out in this outfit with the hood around his head and he’s carrying goggles and he looks out of breath and then he sees me stopping on the street looking and he stops and then suddenly bolts back into the garage shutting it.”

            I wait for a moment to hear more. But more doesn’t come. 

            “Does he come out the front door wielding a chainsaw?” I ask, trying to joke, not sure what else to say. 

            “Who the hell are these people? I mean—come on. Every single one of them seemed beyond shady.”

            “Maybe they’re all scientists or something?” 

            “I felt something back there with the Lee guy,” Cameron says. “I’m serious, Nolan. I felt something. Something—something bad. Something that made my skin crawl. I saw him in that weird get-up and it looked almost wet and I suddenly got the feeling I was in a David Fincher film.”

            I’m about ready to make another stupid quip but I don’t. 

            “Give me the list back,” I tell him.

            “Why?”

            “Why? What—after all that you want to keep it?” 

            Cameron shakes his head. “No, but I don’t want you going and checking any of these morons out. Something’s shady. Like bad shady. Like True Detective shady.”

            “Did you find antlers attached to anybody?” 

            Cameron curses again and flings the sheet of paper I gave him. 

            “Nolan—this is serious. Something’s wrong here. Something’s very wrong.” 

            I see a vein curved up on his forehead and it’s the first time I’ve ever seen that. This is the first time I’ve seen the guy so rattled. The prim and proper glasses and cool and calm guy is seriously resembling Jack Torrance. 

            “Hey—Cameron—look, I’m sorry. I’m sorry to joke. I just—I didn’t think this was anything other than some kind of interesting—something.”

            “F***,” he says loud enough for the next block to hear. “’Some kind of interesting something’? What’s that even mean?” 

            “It doesn’t mean anything. I didn’t expect you go to out and actually hunt down these people.”

            “Somebody’s gotta do something here, Nolan. Don’t you get that?”                     And with that he leaves me in the dust, in the silence and the still and the sudden awareness that I really, truly have no idea what’s going on.  

**

            Come back. 

            The text is from unknown. My iPhone says unknown and I stare not knowing that was an option. 

            I look at the two words and wonder what they mean. 

            I take a while before responding. But I guess you can’t reply to a text from “unknown.” 

            I spend a while trying to see if there’s a way 

            but there’s not

            and then see if I can actually respond 

            but I can’t 

            and then tinker and toy around with my phone trying to see if I can learn anything new 

            but there’s nothing new. 

            “Come back,” I say. 

            Where? To who? To what? 

            Another oddity. 

            Yet another. Lost in time and long forgotten and on the line. 

            Sounds like some kind of song I’m listening to. 

            Maybe someone’s listening to it for me. 

**

            Why am I alone? 

            I wonder. 

            I don’t think I’m somebody that’s aloneable. 

            I don’t feel unliveablewith. 

            I don’t feel unworthy to love. 

            So why?

            This empty place door floor kitchen counter lights on still bedroom sort of apartment. 

            Why?

            Do you ever feel like you’re 

            Don’t go there Nolan don’t even think about it. 

            But sometimes the lonely echoes await and greet you like every afternoon. They talk as much as the sunsetting, revealing as much as the star that’s slowly slipping away. 

            You’re not slowly slipping away. You’re doing it a little more day by day by day. 

            I go looking for something. For anything. Some photos. Some old yearbooks. Some love letters on paper. Some fragments of a childhood. 

            God where’ve I been? 

            But there’s nothing. Not in the desk drawers or the closets or the fire-proof safe or nohing. 

            Have I forgotten to say goodbye to a someone I never knew? 

            Have I neglected introducing myself to a self ten tomorrows from now? 

            Maybe I need sleep. But maybe sleep has no use for me. 

            Maybe the sun yawns and the moon shakes its head and the stars give a collective laugh in the grand midst of it all. 

            And maybe. Maybe I won’t return. Maybe I won’t ever set foot again. Maybe. And maybe every single solitary glance will be set foot on this side of things again. 

            Nolan what the f*** does that even mean? 

            Come on, now. 

            Come on. 

            No need for the four-letter words. No need to use asterisks. 

            But a subconscious insists. 

            And a heart simply unbuttons itself, letting in every little everything. 

            And you sit on the highway staring at the billboards longing for direction and longing for meaning. But the cars pass by and the wind sweeps over you and you smell the sighs of a thousand souls and all you can do is stand and wait and watch and let go.      

            Letting go. 

            Letting the sun fade and letting the super moon bask in its glory and letting the morning wake you with absolute wonder and letting this life try to drag you down.          

            But there’s something more there’s gotta be something more there’s absolutely more.               

            The mystery. The adventure. The journey. 

            So don’t go don’t go Nolan don’t go down you’re almost there almost to the halfway point almost to this little interesting center point.             

            I breathe. 

            It’s all I can do. For now. 

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