Why Scattered But Complete?
Updated: May 6, 2021
It’s a phrase I first came up with back in 19…
I should probably just stop there.
Chop my lifeline roughly in half and start from near the end of the first part and meet a fresh-faced, somewhat battered around but still generally optimistic young man living mere blocks away from where he’d (subtract another decade or two) first learned that he was, as the reports home tactfully stated, “prone to daydreaming.”
The “style before substance” 80s did little, of course, to ease my transition into quote-unquote ‘normal society’ and I had become not just resigned to, but quite comfortable with, the sense that, in the ‘us vs. them,’ world, I was decidedly not part of whoever ‘us’ was.
I also vividly remember the disappointment of a certain November as if it were…well, four years ago, anyway. But I digress. Point being, the night before the sobering realization that “we” decided “we” really did want four more years of rising aggression overseas, wealth inequity, and over-glorification of the straight white nuclear family at the expense of almost everyone I knew was…wait, where was I?
Oh yeah – so it is also still the only time in my entire life that I’ve spoken the words “come home with me” to someone I had just met that night. And no, the evening didn’t end the way I was initially hoping, but it did turn out to be a good decision – definitely for me, and hopefully for her – for her to agree with that rare proposition. Accepting such a direct request was not at all common for her either, she later told me. But she trusted me. And I was (and am), I say somewhat pridefully, trustworthy.
But the important thing for my story anyway is, as she revealed to me slowly over the course of our chaste evening, the reason that she’d had so much to drink with my little group of six or seven, and why she’d decided to not spend the night alone was, she had just days ago watched her ex-boyfriend and still good friend bleed to death right in front of her. They were hanging out at the same bar and grill where we were that night. There was a hit, and they ran, or rather drove on. He bled out on the street while waiting for the cops, the paramedics, an ambulance – anybody - to show up. It was only five minutes later when they did, but it was already too late. He'd just turned 24.
Each to our separate preferred scenarios for the evening, we turned to each other for mutual comfort. She knew that was what she needed. I think she sensed that it was what I needed too. And it was a lovely night. But I also, I must admit a lot less pridefully, never saw her again after our breakfast the next morning.
And yet I still remember holding her while she cried in my arms. “Such a sad world,” she said. I knew, even at the time, that I’d never felt the profound loss that she had. So, in a well-intentioned, but somewhat forced way, I searched for something optimistic to say.
“Look at that lawn!,” I said, pointing to the well-tailored patch of green in the urban park across the street. She looked at me confusedly, and then sadly. Moments passed in silence.
Then it hit me. I grabbed her hand and we stumbled outside together. “But this,” I said, pointing at the sidewalk. “This is where the beauty lies.”
The geometric pattern in the cement blocks that ran the length of the street where I’d roller-skated, petted dogs, and stumbled home from one adolescent mishap or another, was broken precisely once. And in that crack in the sidewalk stood, tall and unbroken, a tuft of about a dozen strands of grass. A layer of hard cement at least two feet deep, pierced and worked-through by the same Bermuda strain that my friends and I idly pulled out in chunks of when the touch-football game on our suburban front lawn could no longer hold our scant attentions.
And as she looked at that tuft of grass breaking through, her grip on my hand tightened, and she turned to me. And for the first time that night, she smiled. And then she kissed me. Gently. On the cheek. And then withdrew. And quickly disappeared around the corner.
A few years later I wrote these lines, on the pad next to my bed, right before going to sleep the night before my father’s funeral:
He speaks through me who can know
What hits the ground from below…
Breaks through the holes in the street
And there you have it. One secret revealed. There will be others.
Complete lyrics here: https://www.scatteredbutcomplete.com/post/but-not-dead