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When I leave Chicago, I always feel as though I’ve forgotten something behind. The castle of my youth was built there. My castle still stands and is tended well by all the flowers in the garden. Though it has weathered storms and age has worn rough grooves that scar the façade, it remains enduring for as long as my memory. My youth is the cornerstone, the moat my fear, the drawbridge my faith and this city is where it was built.

Such a fair youth of insecurity and blame was bound to reside with a longing for forgotten things. Talismanic idols and rituals of culture embedded like gathered motes in a crack on the sidewalk, where weeds eventually grow and where ant wars happen. Nurturing, neglect, influence, guidance, confidence and weary anxiety mold the art into art. How sad that a strong foundation was built on a marsh.

Some of the things I leave behind:

The grief that tightens jaws is the worst to leave behind. It chases me like an abandoned puppy on the highway. The grief of my youth is locked in the crumbling tower of the castle. Lasting and awful like cancer, coddled because it is injured and ignored because it is too much to fix, grief is an anomaly of spirit. Grief is the reason why my mother won’t drive down certain roads and why I can’t tell my lover that ”I love her”. Because I am an endangered species I shrug it off and suck it up and say,

”You only live once.”

Whenever I say that, I wish it wasn’t true.

This song isn’t the saddest I’ve sung.

I once told Wendy that she was an optimist obsessed with death and that I was a pessimist obsessed with life.

Hindsight wants to shake my youth awake, to love and care with all my heart. I was an ambivalent, hyperactive child that wished for something more. I blame it now on swallowing the sorrow of the world, but that is just an excuse. My only excuse and it is a lie because I didn’t swallow the sorrow yet.

The man who taught me how to play real chess died three months ago. I have his obituary faded folded in a chess book. He was my friend and teacher. With chess, he gave me a way to communicate around the world. He let me be strong and willful, able to exhort genuine wisdom. I only remembered the lessons after. Ever after.

Perhaps there is something beyond my comprehension amongst the spindling spiral I spin in. If this is the thing I forgot, I know it will be there when I get back. It will be in the old Weeping Willow we used to swing on in the asphalt playground that grew around it. The one that looked like a swamp thing gorilla. That weeping willow they cut down years ago. That weeping willow that still waves shadows on the linoleum of my third grade classroom.

The attention I craved folded over and over inside me. When I finally found it, I forgot the folden prayers. I forgot them like the things I leave behind.

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