The Man in the Clouds


My life is like no one else’s. It takes a genius like my wife to design the kind of life I live, a beautiful, driven and devastating mind to build and up keep the construct I wander through. It scares me how perfect it is in its creation and how delicate it has become, how powerful as a tower but fragile as a butterfly wing. I stand breathless at its sheer savagery and awestruck by its majesty.

I am lost in magic, a wanderer in an ancient land where nothing, no matter how impractical, is impossible and no boundary exists that can hem me in.

I covetously guard my life and its inner workings, but I have plumbed the depths of evil and loss in my work tonight and it has left me raw, out of control and babbling, as the blind remembering light, and I will for this one time give you a glimpse of the primal thing my wife has built around me.

When I wake I can barely stand. My night has been filled with sleeplessness and whimsy. I have seen things while asleep that I will not be able to name in a few hours. But my wife has built a life for me where I can live in the fog of that unremembered dream all day long.

Coffee gives me my first anchor and my wife comes in very clinical, very decisive. Meds, I take a bunch to hold back bipolar and to patch together a few other ailments bouncing around. Breakfast, if I will agree to it. A steady stream of conversation. She knows I need it. Knows that only talking can bring me into myself.

She balances a delicate game of talking to wake me but not telling me anything important until she sees the glimmer of wakefulness. She does this seamlessly. It is second nature for her to talk me into the world. A graceful dance for her to step to my waking mind and harness it.

She nails down my day with staples of hopes. With a dusting of needs and a glimmer of magic. By the end of this conversation she will have me prepared for the day. She will have me awake and she will have me looking forward to any activity that might keep me grounded.

Then, like a little girl holding a dandelion, she will blow me apart to drift on the wind. No demands this early in the morning. Lets me walk away. Lets me wander for a hour maybe more to catch a whiff of some distant thunder. Lets me fee fi fo fum around the house and see what I can smell, while she deftly maneuvers the boys’ needs, performs the work that will keep our lives going, and sorts and organizes the highlights of my budding career she is slowly building from the ground up.

We have one hard fast job for me to do. It is a pittance of a thing. More an act of meditation than anything else. A shuttle to drive, the kids to deliver. Here I am encouraged to listen to any music that might inspire me, to talk to my kids about whatever nonsense grabs me, and settle myself around a task that will keep me grounded and sane.

Food. Then a shift.

For I have two sons to mold. I need to know their minds, sense their fears. I need to pull them as much into their duties as men as out of their brilliant heads for a moment and let them be kids. I introduce them to their father’s mind with absurdity and precision. Here at the dinner table I will ask them the questions that plague me about their lives while simultaneously destroying their grip on reality.

For now I am telling stories. That side of my mind is blooming. I see dragons in the belly of the oven. I see madmen howling around our feet. I will say the most unbelievable things. Then with a twist and a stomp, I will make them believe it.

Our house can smell fear.

Their mother can breathe fire.

“There is a creature hunting our lives and it is in need.”

My fork points and calls out a boy. “What is it in need of?” I ask.

There in their eyes I see the light of imagination, a fear of performance and a sort of cautious bravery.

But this is normal for dad. He is pulling out of the ethos now. His sparks are flying around our dinnerware. Over us hangs a cloud of the world’s boredom and apathy, but they know not to fear it. Father can chase away the clouds, normal life fears father. The agents of reason know to quail in the face of the storm killer at the table.

I look across the table at my wife and I see it there. Housed in the smile, curled up in the deep pools of hazel. She is caught in the updraft. She is floating on the hot air on the wind. She stares down at me while I hold the world back and light the fire of dream in my children’s minds.

“It is in need of our shoes, daddy,” one will say.

Those flames need fanning.

“Why does it need so many shoes?” Fork shift, now it is the other son’s turn. Now he is set to flame.

“Daddy, it has so many feet.”

Fork shifts and she is being pulled in now. A shy smile and she points at herself.

“What does it do with all of those feet?”

With a smile and a crinkle of her nose she says, “It dances.”

On like this we will go. Shouting to the heavens to scare the clouds. The magic in the room grows deafening. The very sky trembles at our voices, for it is then they all remember we are a family of storm screamers.

Before dinner they had all forgotten. But I hadn’t. It is the only reality I know. It is what I have been built for. With rod of creativity and staff of myth I comfort them all, for they know reality is up for grabs. They know I am not strictly of this world. I do not live where they do. I live in the sky, I smell the blood of an Englishman, and I have a golden goose.

When I come down from dinner I have a few minutes to root myself before I am ushered into reality by the hand of another shift.

Writer’s groups on Tuesdays and Thursdays, beta reader Monday and Wednesday, and a band of merry men on Friday. A group of bandits we are and adventures we have talking art, work and hope.

When this is done, my day is cracking. She is going to bed. She is taking sanity with her as she leaves. And I have two hours to hold her before she drops me into the center of a maelstrom of magic and worlds.

For when she goes to bed I am set free. I come unharnessed from the concerns of the day and I know that now, more than any other time of the day, I am being summoned forward and allowed to run.

“Find it,” she whispers to me before I turn out her light and come down to my forge.

“What if I can’t find it tonight? What if I reach for my staff and it is not there? What if my rod cannot serve me?”

Sometimes I will whimper that I am scared, that I am losing track of the details, that the world will not read my work, that the respect will never come. They will never see the lines I weave. They will see straight through me and they will find me wanting.

She will coddle me, she will calm me, and with the practiced ease of a dancer’s twirl or the practiced ease of a poet’s phrase, she will whisper just enough. She will blow just a bit of hope into my mind before sending me forward to build.

I will work, I will weep. Just as often I will scream and, like a lunatic, rant until I have shouted in tongues and captured the will of God.

She will decrypt the work in the morning, reading what I wrote the night before, because that is a part of it, too. She calls out what I wrote, and like any goddess, her speaking it makes it true.

But that is for the morning. For tonight, a sleepless night and haze of whimsy, and I get out of bed as soon as I can stand. I have more to build. I have more clouds to chase away.

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