Gail is laying in the hospital while I’m standing on the brink. Burning bridges all weekend as I cross them, and if I ever make it home on Sunday, I’m lighting candles by the beach with starry eyes fixed on the shore. No green lights across the bay, because weekend are a myth and every day is Monday. Just a vague memory or six burning bright against the flames.
Some wounds only heal over time, but those scars are here to stay.
I watch her lay there, lifeless, and understand why there are so many sleeping beauties in fairy tales. But now she is no Belle or Snow White with seven dwarves. She’s only flesh with tubes and wires, some flowers and Get-Well-Soon balloons hovering a bedside. A bracelet her favorite nephew made when he turned six, no makeup and dark purple pavements just above her cheek. Serene, beautiful and peaceful, despite the hazmat ambiance of a hospital room. Hashtag #Iwokeuplikethis, and she looked just as perfect as the first time we made eyes and I just knew she was going to be something.
“John? Where’s John,” A weak voice, two notes shorter than a whisper.
She is surprised to see me standing there at first, but then she flashes that familiar smile so unquestionably unforgettable. Fun and full of memorable, something that never quite loses it’s glow, like watching someone trip or stumble in public. Yet there was a certain kind of sadness in the curves of her lips, in every moment of her happiness, like when you reach for a box of cigarettes and find only one soldier left. A frown formed, only, it was shaped upside down. Like when somebody says they miss you, but you don’t really feel the same way. A half hearted exchange, overdone, overkilled. Packed like this paragraph filled with too many similes.
And that’s what she does to me – filling me full of phrases and cliche’s I hate to see other people be a part of. As if our experiences are the same. As if anyone has ever experienced this pain that is so unbelievably mine.
“I must look horrible.” She says.
You say it like it’s something new.
“And you’re still a jerk. Do you still write?” She asks, and I say yes.
“Show me,” She pleads. And I do.
“You write a lot about girls.” I pause and nod.
Most of them are shades of you.
“What about that night?” She says. “Remind me how it went.”
It was snowing, and I met you at the movie theater wearing a suit.
“Why were you wearing a suit?”
Because my other plans cancelled. I was going to…a club, I think, and the birthday person caught a cold or something, and the whole thing was cancelled. But I spent a lot of money on that suit and I still wanted to wear it so.
“Ohhh, so in other words, because you’re an ass.”
Yes. Because I’m an ass.
“How old were we?”
I was 20, I think? You’d just turned 18.
So you just turned 18, I was wearing a suit because I’m an ass-
“And a pedophile,”
Yes, right, I was an ass and a pedophile, and we saw that movie with Jessica Alba about her eye. She could see the future because of it, and at the end when she gets stabbed in the face some guy in the back of the theatre yelled ‘Bet you didn’t see that coming bitch.’
“I remember that.” And she laughs.
We stayed in the food court talking about your little brother and how out of place I looked in a suit. You put on my tie, so we could match, and when we were getting kicked out at around 3a.m. you straightened your tie and told the security guard- ‘Expect to hear from my attorney.’
She smiles and grabs my hand, I stand still and uncomfortable.
“What made you come?” She asks.
“…you’re dying.” I say finally, because it was something I needed to hear myself say.
“Don’t you always say ‘we all are’?”
“It’s different now.”
“You still love me.”
“I’m not here to win you back.”
She died on a Monday.
Weekends are a myth and every day is Monday.
Friday has finally come, a semi-colon in the exhaustive run-on sentence of responsibilities. The entire bus ride commute to the office consisted of recapturing those fleeting visions from my unconscious. I sleep so heavily, and my dreams are so often so powerful and convoluted, I wake up more tired than I entered the dream. Rather than spend my time catching up to e-mails and mentally preparing for the day, I laid my head against the bus window and fell repeatedly into half-reveries. The visions escape me now, as I sit in my study and try to enumerate them. Only glimpses and intense impressions remain upon my psyche.
A corroding house.
The vast and endless sea.
Airplanes carrying enemies. Bombs?
A tender, chocolate skinned girl that kissed me feverishly when no one was looking.
Work begins as it always does: not at all, and all at once. I could describe my job to you in all of it’s weighty un-importance, but to be frank I haven’t the want or need. Work is work, and any enjoyment in it is a misguided millennial dream. Weekends are a myth and every day is Monday – it is a saying and mantra I must softly repeat to myself in every hour of the blistering sunlight. Constantly, I must validate and rationalize why I waste my time in meetings and excel spreadsheets; otherwise, I would simply waste away. Not from a lack of purpose, but the only logical response to an irrational existence- cigarettes, alcohol, excess and vagantry.
In another life I must have been a hobo. There’s little else I enjoy than having little to do: give me a bed, a sofa, a porch or park bench- even a tin roof and a little rum, and I am happy. If only I can be myself, if only for a few moments I can keep the world at bay and my hands off this damned wheel.
My coworkers have begun to respect me as their boss, I think, and around the office there is the mild chatter of how misleading my natural scowl is. There’s a warmth to my darkness, those who have closely known me have said, but I am terrible at first impressions. They are warming to my coldness, and are beginning to see that the frost of my touch and lacking smile misguides the destructive love that lurks beneath me.
But I dislike them all, honestly, as I despise any group and circle. I despise them because they are so normal in their effortless tumbling into each other. I despise them because they make easy what to me is so unnatural. My love does not come in close hugs and roses. My love is jagged and uneven, imposes upon itself the way folded paper leaves creases. I’d rather be alone than in this office, glaring at a spreadsheet and pretending to be kind to strangers on the phone. Helping this cruel world from the dark dregs other have dragged and mired it into, but from a safe and reasonable distance. To make a difference without having to make differences to my demeanor for the sake of their social comfort and meek sensibilities.
But even the apostles were tent makers, and rum cost thirteen dollars a bottle. So I say cheese, and ask them what their plan for the weekend is.
Bed covers don’t cover much besides
cold feet and the secrets two lover share,
immaterial particulars wondered out of window sills,
hiding in plain sight from a stranger or husbands eye.
No heat or warmth in this dire night,
only bodies and bed pillows tainted in the thin
perspiring evidence of gentle sin. Wrinkled
like my grandmother’s hands
before she died and used to show me
how to play Casino and read a tarot.
On the nightstand by the record player
are a deck of cards, red, already shuffled,
predestined. The queen of diamonds lays across
the jack of spades while the king rest against
his back and heart. Two fools frolic in his castle,
but for how long? Soon another hand must come
to be claimed a victor, another game will be played,
and all the characters take on another role.
Jacks low, deuces wild,
aces high, aces high.
Tonight might be anything short
of a gambling addiction, only,
it’s not the high or numbers I’m chasing, but
a feeling. The egg timer clicking, a timer,
a wet shade of grey inching across our shared living.
Room quiet like a gasp, and the alarm clocks ring
will be the sigh. Sunrise. Yawns. Brushed teeth
and breakfast as the roulette wheel of responsibility
begins to spin again. My heart winces at the thought,
wondering, unable to determine where I will fall
among the kings and queens of 52. Universe 25
at 9:00AM waving undecided as the flowered blinds
bordered up against the strain of morning sky.
But the day is coming, no matter
how hard I fight. Time is a cruel dealer
and our winning streaks come to an end.
Another hand, another round of betting.
The fools laugh, the king reigns, diamond
and spade slide across table as strangers,
tainted, but quiet, and forced to look the other way.
Jacks low, deuces wild.
Aces high, aces high.
Bed covers don’t cover much besides
cold toes and a window sill.
No heat or warmth in this dire night
and bed pillows wrinkled like
my grandmother’s hands when
she showed me how to play Casino
before she died that September.
Sixth, a Thursday. One hump off
of meaning something to somebody.
But the world turned just the same
a dog shit on my porch
and the deli man smiled
as he handed me a bacon egg and cheese.
A great woman has died
as far as I’m concerned
but to him I’m just another customer
in a long line of
Can I Get Uhhhhhhhhhh.
Her backscratcher on my nightstand
bent and silent as a reminder
that she is no longer there,
to whisper secrets of the 60’s when
she still had hips and Aunt Nina was pretty
but a bit of a slut.
Only the echos of what she was ripple,
and I’m left searching for stones.
Wood floors. Laptop. Brugal.
Ironing. Cat crying at the moon,
wishing better things
(are they for me???)
Wishing stars are (pipe dreams???)
for anyone who has a problem sleeping,
distracting from the actions I know
are coming in the morning.
Sounds. Sounds. Sounds.
Sounds, Sounds. Sounds.
Wake up faded of love.
Where am I oh yeah again
Brush teeth, a bowel movement and
cold shower. Because the goddamn
hot water isn’t working even
after I asked the super to FUCKING
take care of it.
She was gorgeous, in a terrible sort of way. Beautiful, but fully aware of it while pretending otherwise. She liked taking photographs of old brick buildings and vanilla lattes shaped with hearts in foam, and when she described herself, she used very obnoxious words like “honest” or “bibliophile.” A little confidence shy of another Instagram princess, her measured modesty was obvious and dishonest; it struck me as a very conscious and deliberate over-indulgence in the benefits her sex and carefully caricatured appearance afforded. A glow I know is worn and doesn’t grow from I-woke-up-like-this. And from the very beginning I didn’t trust her- I dislike anybody heartless enough to prey on our rare and kinder inclinations. Villains playing a great game of charades- usually insincere, sometimes a victim, but always a monarch in the pursuit of their own validation.
A kiss couldn’t contain me, I can’t be made still when my world is always rotating. Spinning on a spindle far as the bar can see, high as the stars orbiting Neptune on a lunar eclipse. Can’t call tonight quits so I’m proof-reading draft text messages I meant to send, trying to draw that fine line of flirting while running perfect circles around the moon.
“you don’t like Skylers mom”
“Am I that obvious?”
“no, but I can tell”
“What gave me away?”
He has honest eyes- two black marbles and red strings marinating in a pool of milk; soft and terrifying. Sometimes when he smiles his gaze will wince and flash the hot secret of what he really thinks; open windows that reveal a cold and sensitive man behind the blinds of polite social interractions. A long forehead full of forethought, with a strange canoo shaped scar bobbing down the river of his beard. He had a quality I couldn’t place but softly identified. A secret in his faded Caesar I had to unearth.
“im rlly good at reading people”
“Like a mystic? Forget Skylers mom, tell me the future, specifically in terms of lotto numbers.”
“venus is in mars and he’s not too crazy about pegging. your lucky number is 69”
“You kiss your mother with that mouth?”
“no but i do kiss yours”
“I’ve always wanted a step-momdad.”
You cant stop the earth from shaking, no matter how hard you hold onto it. Your best bet is to grab a friend and ride the tremors, hope he isn’t going to make the night any more than the natural disaster I was meant to be. A social inventory insist that I am something of a catch- a little jaded, maybe, but more like blood diamonds than single mothers at 45. Twenty something erucater reprobate, “waist hip proportionate” (whatever the fuck that means,) that doesn’t mind a night full of fancy clothes and jazz bars or McFlurrys in a beat up Ford Escape around midnight. I’m down to clown or play sophisticated, depending on where my mood is. So long as I don’t have to justify why I think everyone should recycle and wearing denim jeans with dress shoes is a sin.
“I can’t think of what to say so I’m going with a very hopeful and loaded ‘wyd’.”
“laundry, little brother baby sitting”
“How old is he? And what’s his favorite color?”
I should be home with a book or jaw so cut it leaves dimples along my waist and pillows. Where I lay my head is home, and lately I like resting to the thought of him. I wonder what kind of lover he would be, in the romantic sense. Classical maybe, holding open doors and keeping between myself and traffic. Like I were a pet or songbird to protect. Or is he rather renaissance, regarding me with an equality and respect of a fellow human being. Dutch dinners and gender neutral nuances, bland sweet talk that means well but borders on boring, lacking that playful sentimentality of a baby-please.
“I miss you.”
But that’s all I ever think about. Even in my raunchiest dreamy recluse I can never get to the actual sex part. My fantasies are underwhelming as the movies are- I only care about everything leading up to the moment before my mind fades to black and I’m suddenly out of breath or boredly staring at the ceiling from my pillow.
“Saturday, you and me and a dinner. You can talk about your baby brother and that stupid movie with Kate Blanched that you like. I’ll wear the shirt you said doesn’t make me look so ugly and you’ll make my face say something my mouth wasn’t ready to. It’ll be fun! Or not, and awkward. But whatever it is, I need it to be something more than what we are.”
Read on 1/18/2018