I often take melatonin nightly because my mind races vividly toward a struggle of memory and manifest. I get enraptured in a sky of theory and juxtaposition, when I should be preparing for sleep. Ideas like clouds, masses of thought suspended midair moving life faster than one’s examining power. Routine guides us all back from the clouds, calling us to more grounded footing. People and situations are also cloudy, orbiting around us like planets spinning with a lion’s pull, threatening to knock us out of balance.
Flammable becomes the bridge between people, situations, and ideas. I’ve seen isopropyl alcohol used as an antiseptic and because it cleans bacteria, it has to induce pain in order to remedy it.
At every doctor I’ve seen, alcohol fires at my arms sneering a superior laugh. It’s no wonder it’s acidic. People put it on those cloudy cotton-balls before it’s lobbed onto compact discs, human skin, and most flat surfaces.
Our hands get it several times a day like we are burning off a memory or some connection that made us feel alive. Alcohol reminds us of its power to leave permanent impressions we cannot bury. And that isn’t always clean… that impression.
The cotton balls dabbed eventually morph into people. The alcohol, flames exacerbating emotional wounds long left untended. These wounds are wasted dreams: fathers and sons too stubborn to compromise. Aunts and uncles drifting away from cousins. Alcohol makes cotton balls and swabs sticky, wet, malleable, and breakable.
The cotton eventually falls limp. Cotton is cloudy. When cloudy becomes stormy, The limp pudges down. Rain beats pavement. The cotton, releasing punches of rain, hail, lighting, and sometimes acid into whatever is near.
That’s the picture I see of it. Alcohol is not a purifier, more a reminder of what’s trapped deep in the lives of those who embrace it fully. And that’s why I only use alcohol under specific circumstances. I don’t ever want to be so flammable, breakable, or sticky as to become infused with the full flame of times before.
Alcohol subverts me, destabilizes me. Lately, I feel like bacteria when I have a beer or two at some family functions. It’s like the alcohol is the soggy cloud that drowns out the things I’d rather say. It’s like a cloudy, rain mix to numb the memories, to push things down. I’ve been fed the elixir that thinking incisively ruins the softness: the surface, the conclusion, the thesis. It ruins the essay I would rather write about what I see in front of me.
Just like alcohol, marijuana makes wet, sticky, yet dense people. They become soft blundering idiots when connected with me. When you’re always high on weed, how do I know the real you from a hole in the ground? Then there’s that awful smell that reminds me of burnt sewage. Let’s get so high within the clouds that our pride is the stuff or furtive glances, awkward topics, and outright denials.
Does the marijuana make you clean? Does it help you face your fears? If alcohol is a basic ingredient toward cleanliness, surely grass is rhetorically—–persuasively—clean.
Does not grass eventually get manicured? Does not the height eventually bring us back to earth. I see why American life has reached such record denial in black, white, red, maroon, and beige humanity. We would rather live in the clouds of our past and accept the persuasion that suicide is the only option. Destabilization is the hyperbole we cling to because denial is better than grief. And grief is worse than God. And fear is worse than faith. And the acid of rejection, is better than the flame of ethics.
I have to build my clouds on eternal promises. Because the temporal world reflects my eventual despondent, deafening, surrender. Because racists exists, I should stop being black. Because conforming is easy, I should stop envisioning my own idea of African-American culture. I should behave in the cloud of alcohol, weed, and excess because Beyoncé and Drake are my learned idols. I used to believe that people were like alcohol— flammable enough to drown out the ruin that experiences left behind. Then I learned, that fire doesn’t always purify lost souls. Some people love being lost.
The hyperbole of it all: my destiny weighs a ton. But by carrying it—-shame or not—I’m writing my own story. My story isn’t a cloud. It’s not soft, distant, or high. It’s clarified everyday with books, coffee, tea, wine, and music. And sometimes I have abused these. Abusing a substance doesn’t make the facts go away. Abusing a person does not change your storied character. Speeding up does not oversell the purpose of slowing down to process. And alcohol doesn’t stop other people from being jarred into the awareness that you might not understand what they see in certain ideas, symbols, and traditions that you deem pointless. And those same pointless rituals become the reason why culture isn’t changing, just strangled by performance, power and pride.
Eventually, clouds burst. People get tired and what means the world to you, gets polluted by the stories you don’t tell, the time you never share, the people you never called, and the secrets you believed no one knew. All those alcohols cleaning an infection that keeps being re-cut, re-bruised, and re-bandaged because the wrong product is doing a superficial job.