An Over-Examined Life
A Collection of Works by: Aaren Herron
Editing is the crux of reality. We edit our lives to fit the bill and we edit the bill to fit our lives. We live for the moment and the moment is our life and without that connection there is no perception. We are ruled by the moment in hopes that one day we can seize it; but to seize isn’t enough. Without the awareness and participation of the world our own lives serve no purpose other than to buffer the lives of those more important.
The Lying Game
Lies are fundamental to the developing brain. Protection from all intruders and armor against one’s own actions. Lies are fundamental to the development of a story and an individual. For, without the lies, the individual is open and unable to deflect. Lies are fundamental to the existence of humanity; lies are our entire history. Lies are fundamental.
It was the first warm and sunny day of quarantined Bellingham and I found myself at a rocky beach in the cool 78 degree weather. Though I peer out into the ever growing expanse of the sea, the walls continue to close in and the rocky shore ahead acts like barbed wire keeping me locked inside my mind. Though the two friends I came here with ventured out into the waves, I couldn’t seem to find my wire cutters anywhere. Each attempted step forward was met with the burning pain of the rock wall built upon the bodies of countless dead crabs. Ethan waved to me from a distance and an oceanic lens flare sent me barreling back to a time when blisters in the sun were more than just a song; Phoenix, Arizona sometime between 2000 and January 3rd, 2008.
I remember being blinded by what was supposed to be a window but acted more like a devilish mirror when the inferno was at its highest point in the sky. After rubbing my eyes out until the stars overtook the blurry spots in my vision, I remembered why I had been blinded in the first place and started floating motionless and face first in my maternal grandmother’s pool to see if anybody was paying attention. Evidently, they were paying just enough attention to watch me look at them blankly through a window and then dunk my head into the water for what felt like 3 minutes (even though it was more likely 13 seconds).
On most warm days you could find me and my brothers begging my mother to drive fifteen minutes up the freeway just so we could see our Gparents and take a dip at the not-so-world famous Old Home. We call it that due to it being the Original Gangster location where the entire Martin family grew up celebrating, loving, and fighting with one another since the 1955s. I say “original gangster,” but it was much more akin to a collection of lanky Irish Catholics fresh out of the war like the Amish Brotherhood you’d often find on the History Channel. You’d often find the whole family here on the holidays (even those that many deemed unfit for the grace of our extended family); and my brother’s and I would join all throughout summer to test who could hold their breath the longest underwater. I refuse to remember who won those battles, but I’ll go ahead and say it was me.
When I finally managed to run out of game ideas, and every single molecule of water has been absorbed by your towel and/or the skin on your body, I’d venture across the blistering concrete and towards the back door. My Grandmother would attempt to quell the burn by placing carpeting over the concrete, but that would merely act like a pan atop a burning flame. Needless to say, me and my brother’s managed to garner a world-class skipping ability; the stab of each step sending decades of practice through the marrow in our bones.
The pain from the memory sends me back to the future, and I’m now running across the parking lot asphalt barefoot to get to my car. We three manage to reach the vehicle and, as I’m fumbling for my keys, we manage to get a little extra practice with our tap dancing routine until the doors are unlocked. I pick the rocks and slivers of skin off the bottom of my feet in pain before starting the car and heading back home. The drive was okay, the two of them talked as a mirage of colors streaked across my eyes, only ever interrupted by a droning red light from time to time. Occasionally, a fear would strike my heart jolting me out of the mirage as I remember the feeling of the steering wheel in my hands; doing everything I can not to slip back into the fold.
The drive is finished and the three of us have finally arrived back at our apartment to commence the rest of the day’s activities. As we were walking, and they were talking, our way back, Ethan pulled his phone out of his pocket and doused my eyes with the burning reflection of the Sun’s UV-rays; and as I blindly reached for the door handle I’m taken aback the back door of Old Home. I head into the bathroom and change out of my swimsuit and into my normal combination of clothing: a John Cena T-shirt, plaid shorts with any number of color variations (excluding yellow and orange), and white socks with neon green tennis shoes.
As I’d exit the bathroom and step out onto my grandmother’s newly varnished red wood flooring, which was a perpetual frostbite hazard that would turn toes blue then black if one doesn’t pay attention, I’d always catch a whiff of the most incredible scent known to man. Not the euphoric mist of a post rain morning, not even the accomplishment of fresh cut grass; I’d smell the heavens opening up and the angels singing their praise to the cheesy culinary gods below. The rich combination of a buttery tortilla folded over jack cheese that oozes its way out of every crack and slice allotted to its almost molten body and a freshly opened can of chicken sent me on the balls of my feet like Mickey Mouse when he smells a fresh pie.
As I’d float over the wood flooring and towards the dining table, I could hear my grandmother yell out “Ben.. Tim.. Lisa… no.. Aaren! Aaren, do you want hot sauce on your quesadilla?” The answer was forever and always a yes and the moment she pulls out her tub of taco bell hot sauce that she’s collected over the years, I know I’m in for quite the variety of choice. Trying to remember my choice, the haze of memory begins to leak out like the remnants of sauce in a crushed packet.
As I finally come out of my nostalgic haze and the stars have overtaken the blurry parts of my vision, I catch another whiff of that all familiar scent and realize I’ve taken to cooking quesadillas for every meal of my life since living alone. It’s quite the diet, I know, but it brings me out of the sadness of lost time and into the joy of time spent before. The final test is always the same regardless of the day: Which game will I play with my tongue today? A cool sweetness blending with the cheese, or should I burn the taste buds off my tongue so they better match the rest of my body?
Blood red cherry blossoms line the back of his yard. Dripping with the souls of those who once laid their life upon a sword. Stained with the dreams of men who were once thought to be strong. The red never goes away in a world where the very ground we stand on was hallowed by the wandering souls of the billions before us. You’ve got red on you, and it’s going to stain.
Certainly Morbid, Potentially Humorous
It’s one thing to have had something and then had that ripped away from you. Many soldiers go out to war and come back unable to walk, talk, or even jack-off (cause their hands are blown off). I feel empathetic towards that, you know? Private Dancer lost his eyes and now he can’t see titties no more. Although, he’s got the empathy vote so he’ll be getting more pussy than he’s ever gotten before. But he’s also blind, so he has no idea what he’s fucking.
It rests atop a tarnished metal pole, saved only by the reflective coating that defies every ounce of dust brought on by haboob season. West Charleston Avenue, the marker of my childhood. A one lane road paved by what appears to have been a collection of people who’ve never handled asphalt or operated heavy machinery a day in their life. Heat waves glow off the surface of the street, resonating through homes and the tray of cookies on your car dashboard, melting sandals and frying eggs. The floor is lava.
The sidewalk, however close to white, but still not quite white, as it was, proved to dispel most of the heat that was trapped in the street. Though, if you were to rest in one place you’d feel yourself being lifted like Marylin Monroe’s dress as the heat rises into the sky with daunting power. Twelve houses from the end, that’s where you’ll find me. Well, it’s only four houses if you come from the opposite end that’s not attached to 31st Ave, but I digress. You’ll be able to tell it from the others due to the ever-flying Ohio State Buckeyes flag (or maybe the US flag, depending upon how patriotic my dad is feeling), and, of course, the massive red front door mocking the lava that flows through our streets.
There’s a front yard split into three parts; one rather short two lane driveway stained from the various coats of paint that visited the house, and two unequal parts rock. It was a beautiful yard, always a brighter addition to the neighborhood with the Mom in charge. So beautiful, in fact, that it would bring to life an unwanted infestation of weed; the kind of weeds that I’d be hunched over picking once a week. Thankfully, I always had my trusty CD player, which would eventually turn into a neon green ipod nano, to keep my ears company during those days.
Spiked deep into the rocks (but not deep enough), just next to the driveway, stands a regulation height basketball hoop that we forcibly turned into a less-than-regulation height basketball hoop. It must’ve been a combination of our weight and the heat of the Sun beating down on the hoop that forced it into a perpetual imitation of Pisa’s Leaning Tower. Maybe it was all the elbows in the face, maybe it was my small frame’s inability to get past my massive brothers, but I chose to play baseball instead… for a moment.
A patio of various laid bricks near the front door rests behind a row of bushes that can’t seem to figure out if they want to live or not. The patio houses a bench, a few chairs, and a few coffee tables with various cacti and ash trays scattered about. It’s one of the more beautiful arrangements mother has created, though there’s never been anyone to sit there in leisure, except for a crying friend in need. The main attraction is always going to be that big red door, decorated to resemble the most recent of holidays.
A big red door that leads into the welcome room, the living room, or even just the room for childhood living; regardless of what you call it, you’ll probably be living. This is the place to be when you’re growing up within the Herron household. Movies, music, exercise, holidays, board games, hide and seek, getting attacked by your brothers, late night sneaking around when you’re supposed to be asleep, and you can never forget the crashes into tables that result in permanent forehead injuries.
A raised, and oddly carpeted, dining room that was very wisely turned into the main living room area for the family. The biggest tv your child-like eyes could’ve ever laid eyes on, until you went to a store and saw a much bigger one. It’s a nice tv though, resting atop countless cases of movies fit for any occasion; it’s especially perfect for when you need to cook dinner and have a “living room” three feet in front of you. Plus, it’s a moment away from the bathroom that’s entire function was turned into a moot point the moment father decided all of his clown paintings should be hung in there. Apparently 15 years of being a rodeo clown didn’t warrant putting these in his own bathroom.
A bedroom so personal and unique, purple and incomplete, due to the artistic stylings of Mother, that one could escape all of the horrors of the world and feel complete warmth and protection within; as long as the lights were on. Thankfully, this room is fully equipped to allow a young child to dive through the darkness and demons, and into their bed, in less than one step. Well, once they finally learn to take that leap.
Just outside the window rests a backyard flooded with grass, weeds, a bunch of goddamn mesquite seeds and thankfully, due to the six foot high walls that border the property, no lava. Portable baseball plates riddle the backyard from a friendly 1v0 game that took place hours before; you’d be surprised who the MVP was. Hanging over in the dugout, the one right next to the Widowmaker just waiting to fall, is a tire swing fashioned into the shape of a horse. Perfect for swinging back and forth, swinging in circles, and puking everywhere once you’re finally allowed off. Nowadays, though, it’s so dried out that the rubber crumbles to the touch.
An easy-to-get-to rooftop with a torn up paper stamped “FAIL” spread out across the right side, provides easier access to the other side of the roof that holds the warm embrace of a rising desert sun. We children of Charleston stand atop our roofs still feeling the heat from the lava below and the sun above; our finger’s spread out, index clenched, left hand in the shape of a G. We represent the people of 31st and Grover’s, a collective inspiration of a native son, 31G.