The Dream Ebbs and Flows

I remember asking the Ritter Elementary School librarian for a book on Spielberg in the 1988-1989 school year. I waited two weeks for it. Every other day, I’d bother her about the book, but the date of arrival never changed.

At age 8, I wanted to be Steven Spielberg. He made daydreams come to life. He turned regular people into giants. A rainbow always shined in the end, and evil always lost. My world was my family, my home, and a movie theater, and I could see no other calling.

At age 42, I just want to live well and write well and maybe have a wider audience. I try and sometimes succeed at the first one every day. I feel better about the second. Maybe I’ll have the third eventually, but I think I’ll be okay if it never happens. Until then, I finally own that Spielberg book.

Happy 548 Birthday!

One-and-a-half trips around The Sun today, Emile. There will be no party, but I celebrate all the same.

You are here. You are healthy and strong and absorbing new words faster than I ever could. You were meant to be here and will inherit the world in ways that I could not.

There was a time when my head was a carnival of light, my son. Thoughts, ideas, and emotions all intertwined in a kaleidoscopic feast, and I believed that if I just put it out there, put it on paper or film or on stage, people would understand me. I was convinced I was here to save the world and show them things hidden under the blanket of their fixed views and idealogy.

But no one seemed to care, and I engaged in a protracted and misanthropic self-conversation that robbed me of joy and gratification with even the most delectable of occasions.

It doesn’t matter what they think of me anymore, at least not like it used to. I see the psychedelic-Kodachrome cavalcade in your smile and I am reborn. It makes its way down the abandoned roads of my soul, and some days I think I can see barren fields filled with life again. I ask myself, “How could I ever have allowed others such power over me? How could anyone torture themselves as I did?”

I will be your audience, my son. I will be your witness. I know that if I can do anything it will be to see you in your most noble and extraordinary wardrobe, a tapestry of confidence and sweetness patched together with no visible seams. I will be your champion. The world doesn’t know what they’re in for like I do.

Happy 18 months old, Emile. We’ve come so far in such a short time, and we have miles and miles to go. Sometimes I wonder what I would do for a few miles more.

Stuck

When something doesn’t go Emile’s way, he says that it’s stuck. When he can’t open a door, it’s stuck. When a ball or toy is lodged under something, it’s stuck. When he can’t push his carriage across the sidewalk, it’s stuck. When an object is too heavy to lift and throw outside of his playpen, it’s stuck. Stuck no longer means stuck to him. Anything that serves as a source of frustration and forces him to solve a problem, anything that he can’t control and must learn to overcome, anything that he can’t manipulate and must learn to leave alone, all of it is stuck. With that said, I have a possible name for my future book of stories and essays that I’m writing for Emile. The World Is Stuck. 

A Twilight-Hour Note (from a first-time father to his newborn son) by Marc Alexander Valle

Mavthewriter

Your Daddy writes to be heard. Your Daddy writes to let the world know that he’s here. Your Daddy writes because he feels that he has something to say, a message that needs to be delivered and pulled out of his gut like some-type of science fiction movie. Your Daddy writes to not be interrupted when he speaks. Your Daddy writes to be loved. Your Daddy hopes to be understood, but at this point feels that most people will never understand him. Your Daddy writes because he cannot say what he means on the top of his head without the other person giving him time to think or respond. If Daddy were to try to verbally express what you’re reading now, he would sound like the under-educated, working class kid that he was. Your Daddy writes because he’s an artist. Your Daddy is an artist, someone that sees things so…

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Devin Maguire Can Bite My Dust

Devin Maguire Can Bite My Dust

by Marc Alexander Valle

10-year old Devin Maguire held onto his BMX handlebars and stared at my new bike. “Your dad got that bike from a thrift store.”

“No, he didn’t!” I said.

“Yes, he did. I can tell.”

“No, he didn’t.”

“Yeah, cause there’s marks on it.”

I looked down at the bike. There were scuff marks on the handlebars, but that was it. 

“He got it from K-Mart,” I said.

“Okay, which one?”

“The one down the street.”

“I know all the bikes at K-Mart. I didn’t see that one there.”

I shrugged my shoulders. “Well, that’s where he got it from.”

“Did he tell you he got it from there?”

“No.”

“Then how do you know?”

Devin stared right into my eyes. He had a blank expression, but I swore I could see a smirk. It was the same smirk he always had, the same one he had whenever he beat a kid in a race. 

“So?” Devin said. “How do you know?”

Devin kept staring. He looked as though he had all the time in the world and the absolute certainty that he was right. I knew that I had only a beat or two before I looked like a fool. I had to answer. 

“Cuz,” I said, “My parents don’t shop at thrift stores!”

Devin continued to look into my eyes. I felt like he was searching for something, and I needed to keep my composure. Didn’t he see my brother with a new bike last year? Didn’t he know it was my turn?

I tightened my lips and gripped my handlebars. Devin scrunched his eyebrows. I quickly glanced down at his bike.

“Alright,” he said, letting out a snicker. Then he rode off towards his apartment building.

When my dad came back from work, he told me that he bought the bike from a thrift store. The same store we’d been to several times that year. ©2022

Music: The Letters to My Son Series

Nearly a century and a half of music recordings and centuries more of musical compositions are at your disposal. Use it. Find it. Let it talk to you. It can help you at any time. Never expect it to solve the problem, but music can expose the underlying issues of your life that make the problem seem real. 

I was sad in my early 20s. Very sad. Everything was tragic, and everything I tried to do seemed to end in failure. I felt as though I couldn’t even get a hello from people and from the world. I wanted it all to end sometimes. Music was that hello. 

It talked to me directly, and it made me believe that there are and have been others just like me. They think like me, and they feel like me. Music was the code between us, and the message was, “I am an artist.” Music told me that my role was to reevaluate norms. I was never to be satisfied with what we assumed to be true, but I was never to change my core beliefs. There was nothing wrong with me. I was normal. It was the conversation between the individual and the world that was distorted.

There’s a link between youth and music and the way it shapes our views. How will you allow it to shape yours?       

The Homework Theif by Marc Alexander Valle

A mini-story from my mini-book, So You Say You Want An 80s Childhood?

The Homework Thief

Brian Ross was my friend.

“Are you friends with Brian?” Anna said to me, sitting on the floor in gym class. “I think he puts mayonnaise in his hair.”

“No, he doesn’t,” I said.

“Yeah,” Frieda said. “He smells like my lunch bag.”

“No, he doesn’t.”

Brian Ross was my friend, even if he were to put peanut butter on his head. Brian liked what I liked on TV, and we could play the same characters every recess without my having to tell him about them. He was the only other kid that laughed at my cartoon jokes and references. Brian Ross was my friend. Then Brian Ross stole my homework.

It was there in the bin. I told Mrs. Cain that I swore I did my homework and put it there when I arrived at 8am. So she looked through all of last night’s assignments and pulled it out. I could see my name erased and Brian’s name now on top of it.

“That’s it,” I said. “I know because I wrote my name nice and big.”

Mrs. Cain turned to the class. “Alright, let’s go to lunch. Marc and Brian I want you to stay behind.”

At recess, my classmates surrounded me, trying to piece together what happened.

“He tried to make it look like it was his homework?”

“Did he ask to take it?”

“Is he getting in trouble?

I answered the questions as fast as they were given, and I assured them that I didn’t give him the assignment. I liked this feeling, this attention. It felt good. All eyes were on me for the first time in a very long time. The boys even stopped playing kickball to question me, and the hopscotch girls left their beanbags unguarded. This was nice.

Within two minutes, they’d gotten all the information they needed, and I ran out of things to tell them. They began to talk amongst each other about Brian.

“Yeah, he smells like ham sandwich.”

“He took my pencil.”

“Why’s he always dirty?”

They kept going on about different circumstances involving Brian. I laughed at a joke without even hearing the punchline.

“Mrs. Lee looked mad,” I said.

They kept talking.

“He got upset.”

They kept talking.

“I think he’s scared.”

They kept talking.

“He picks his nose too.”

They looked at me.

“I know. I saw it,” Lucy said. “He does it all the time.”

I continued, “He used to be my friend, but he acts stupid sometimes.”

“He thinks he’s funny,” Elvin said.

Their circle opened up, enough for me to fit in. It was as though they made the perfect spot for me with my name on it. I walked forward. The circle closed again. I was in. I was there. I was one with the rest.

Brian walked out of the building and onto the playground pavement. His head was pointed down to the ground as he zipped up his thin red jacket. The kids turned towards him. I backed away just a bit.

He stopped and scanned the playground, then turned and looked at me. I looked away. A kid in the group said something that made the other kids laugh. I chuckled at the joke without even hearing the punchline.

by Marc Alexander Valle

©2022

An Evening Note

AN EVENING NOTE

(from a father to his 11-month-old son)

by Marc Alexander Valle

Much has already been decided. It was out of my hands. Out of your mother’s hands. Out of anyone’s control. I see it as you sleep soundly on this bed right now. Your mother’s dark blonde hair, your nose like mine, your cheeks like mine, your chin like mine, all out of my control. I orchestrated none of it. It was all God. It was all The Universe. It was all Nature. It was all Luck. Fate. Destiny. Chance. The Gods. Truth be told, I delivered some DNA that Odin would be proud of, but it was all in a genetic pool that I had no command over. And you are an extraordinary specimen, my son. Cary Grant. Marlon Brando. Superhero illustrations. Your face, so handsome and symmetric. The doctor said at your last check-up that you have a mug that she could stare at for hours and hours. I’d call her a weirdo if it weren’t so true. But it is true. And it was all decided without my authority and I am in love. 

But what of these tentacles? These unwelcomed circumstances that are out of my dominion. What of the fact that your father is a peasant. And his father was a peasant. And his father was a peasant. I am a peasant. I don’t make too much money. We live with my parents. I have little saved up for retirement. I’ve never really traveled. I’ve never eaten crab in Maryland, and I never had Bar-B-Que chicken in Memphis. I’ve only been on a plane once. I get most of my news from mainstream outlets. I can’t get my weight down. And I buy dumb stuff on the Internet that I don’t even need. I am a peasant. And you will see your father struggle as a peasant. And work like one. And eat like one. And play like one. And maybe even love like one. 

As you sleep soundly on this bed, I know that forces of the natural realm have already decided some things. Wherever you go, one way or the other, you will carry the ZIP code that you were born in. For that I’m sorry. 

But what if I told you that I am a king? What if I told you that I cannot be touched? That I am impervious to the influence of the masses and their mob mentality?  That the walls of mediocrity will never cave in on me? I am a king. With a mind burning as bright as magnesium lit by a 7th-grade science teacher. With the world’s greatest ideas stewing in my subconscious like your grandmother’s Puerto Rican kidney beans. With thoughts and emotions deeper than an atom at the dead center of The Sun. What if I told you that I put people at ease and that many people trust me more than their own lawyers, doctors, and spiritual advisors? Would I even really need to tell you that? Will you see it for yourself one day?

As you sleep soundly on this bed, I don’t remember what a restful night is like anymore. By the time I experience it again you’ll be your own man, and I’ll be closing in on the end of this life. The tendrils of time, space, and causality pull us towards a state of pure energy once again, and the crickets outside have been chirping for a good two hours. I think I’ll lie next to you for now. Just for a little. Just until you wake. Just to watch you wake. Just for now. I will lie next to you.

Happy 10-month birthday, Emile. Daddy loves you.

It’s Always in the Corners

It’s Always in the Corners by Marc Alexander Valle

More and more I tell myself that it started in Algebra class, that I was Tourette’s-and-facial-tic-free until I sat in front of Axel Sidezski that sophomore year. That’s the connection I’ve made. I don’t remember having or feeling the tics before the age of 14. And I’m sure the syndrome is largely genetic, but something inside me believes that Axel lit the spark. 

I googled searched Axel the other day, haunted by two questions: Is he still the same and is he doing better than I am? I searched for 10 minutes and I only found whitepage profiles and I couldn’t verify that any of them were him. I remember he had reddish-blondish hair and like most of my high school, touch-and-go bullies, they always wore a sports team jacket or a sports team t-shirt but they never really played any sports. Would he have that same smirk in his new picture? I looked on twitter and instagram and facebook and even youtube and after 10 more minutes of turning up nothing, a voice in my head said to stop cyberstalking. I closed the laptop and went to bed. 

I let him hit me. Not punch me and not “I let him” as in “Sure! Go ahead and hit me” but I let him all the same. He’d push my head with an open hand. I think I told him to stop, but he didn’t. He’d hit me more than I’d like to admit and sometimes I even told myself we were really friends like I was Fredo in The Godfather and he was Moe Green and I don’t know why I’m telling you people this because I have so much shame for not hitting back that I blocked out exactly what happened and how it occured, but one thing for sure is that I believe there is a connection between the tics and his harassment. Like it kicked in right then and there in the middle of balancing an algebraic equation. And I’m not 100 % sure that there’s a connection but I’m 100% sure that I tell myself everyday that there is a connection. 

Are we really who we think we’ve become? Can we ever let go of the weight?

I told myself that I would write things that no one else could write and express ideas that most people can’t verbalize or even process, and I’ve gotten to a point where I at least feel that I don’t have much competition, all to stand up and tell myself that if the Axel’s of the world ever came back and I once again stood down, at least I could do one thing better than they can.

It started in a math class that I eventually failed, and it all tied in with dreams and ambitions and talent and ego and suffering and neurodevelopmental disorders, all to make me who I am today, at least in my imagination. Axel Sidezski wins the battle nearly everyday.

Is he still the same and is he doing better than I am? 

I don’t even think he’d remember my name.