Malade Imaginaire (Cassie, Episode I)

There was a stale remnant of the weekend hanging on my breath, a dark and shapeless nag pestering against the flickering subway lights and dimming silver handrails. Thick and smothering between pressed buttoned shirts, noose ties and summer dresses huddled on the express Lexington avenue bound for midtown before a final stop to nowhere. My thoughts felt like strangers at a party,  huddled close to one another but no one knowing what to say.

A small-suited man bumped against my shoulder and apologized. I meant to do the same, opened my lips to speak, but they did not make a sound. I glanced up at the dead eyed glare of an Asian woman baring her teeth in what some might call a smile. A poster for a college or language learning center. Bold, black marker graffiti obscured most of it, so that the only visible parts were the slender neck of a woman and a tagline written in a worn, exciting red.

“GENERATION AFTER G NE ATION!!!” It said.

I got off the next stop, sent a vague text to my boss about feeling sick and began to wander Manhattan. Everywhere was a feint, hostile, seething unrest bubbled from the gum spotted granite sidewalks; steaming softly from the city grates like vapor. While the oak and marble fronts of restaurants, businesses and delicatessens glistened with the unnatural sheen and polish of something new and untouched. Beautiful and prosthetic.

It was all so awful.

I wanted to be drunk, or dead, or anything except that feeling lingering beneath my tongue like a razor blade. To forget myself and all my troubles, if only for a little while.

It was only 7AM but in my heart it was twenty minutes to last call; and I had all day to no longer feel human. I have to forget, otherwise I fall in a pit of something. A madness and not the poetic kind. The mad kind. The kind that roams the empty city at 5am smiling at the air. The kind that wakes up in strange apartments and motel rooms wet in somebody else’s sweat without a clue or memory of how he got there. The kind that talks and wiles like it’s all just a clever little game, but is burning alive, is howling in laughs and I-Like-Your-Hair.  The kind that’s quietly out to ruin something because a moaning in his blood compels him to, reminds him it’s all just a cosmic accident and that devils do not exist, were molded after men. And women.

Terrible for each other, and much worse for anyone else.

Advertisements

Cash Bar Only (aka Only Dickheads Tip On Their Debit Card)

A part of me likes to socialize for the sole purpose of disliking it. Self prophecy or flagellation, I don’t know. You be the judge, boo.

Instead of rotting at home between four walls and the endless void of myself, I could grab my coat and finally answer someone I only left on read as a power move. Boys are cute and men make for better conversation, but in the end I like to think the games I play are less because I’m a bitch and more  just window shopping.

Some guys still get angry at the fact, but then again I guess most guys never worked in retail.

“Can I buy you a drink?” He said, a little nervous, but hiding it well.

“I hope so. This dress doesn’t come with a wallet.” I said, not disclosing the fifty dollars I had stashed in my bra because mama taught me well (and had dead beat boyfriends. Hi dad!)

I like my loneliness throughout the year but then Summer starts turning the bend and the heat creeps inside your bones. Then all those days I spend bird watching in Central Park, or drinking enough wine to want to practice yoga poses at home, they start feeling less and less fulfilling. Those wide, dead eyed Macy’s-summer-Sale ads glaring from the side of buses and subway platforms. Half naked and generic couple or family staring at you, actors probably, complete strangers that still manage to give you the impression like you’re missing out on something.

“This place is nice,” I said. “How many other pretty girls have you brought here?”

It’s all bullshit, and I know I go right back to being bad all by my merry self once September comes around. But who doesn’t like a nice looking stud or vixen to grab you by the waist, pull you close and treat you like something thats only good for being used for a night? I sure as hell do.

“Its my first time here,” He said. But the way the bartender doesn’t even glance my way makes me believe otherwise.

“Let’s dance,” I said, fully aware that he doesn’t like to.

“Hell yeah,” He replied, smiling in a way that almost makes me start to like him. “I’ve been practicing.”

So I’ll be gone til’ November and when December comes, I start taking those eggplant emoji’s less seriously. A couple drinks in Mulberry’s or High Bridge with another yuppie that thinks he either has me figured it out or has it all together. Throw the dust off my social withdrawal and take my place in a song, dance in the hysteria of a mob bouncing to a base and dissolving into a sea of other people. Move my hips in a rhythm that begins to feel instinctive, almost natural, and that despite myself feels on the fringes of a good time. A place where words or thoughts or how stupid he looks in that ascot are no longer necessary.

“You’ve gotten better.” I said, and he has. It’s the most honest thing I’d said to him his entire life.

“I was tired of you making me fun of me,” He said, trying to laugh.

Then I could bring him home, sleep sound and full of thoughts, and sentences, and sometimes bodies, other than my own. Happy, or at least, on the verge of some semblance of it. Him hopping through the hoops and traps I lay behind me. My conscience feeling awful for it every time he lands the fall. Then Christmas comes and he gets me something stupid and sweet like a yoga mat or blue rose, and then I wake up to hate myself for being so mean and a hypocrite.

“Then you definitely should not have worn that thing around your neck,” I said.

Or I could sit outside of it all as an observer and reinforce my prejudices, safe behind the looking glass of a bell jar. Convicted of my convictions and incapable of seeing the other side of the coin. Say Fuck-You to Macy’s the next time I see her, grow out my underarm hair and make an Instagram entirely dedicated to The Makings Of A Cat Lady and Drunk Yoga. Isolated and un-reproachable, impossible to hold the mildest of conversations with until he goes to the bathroom and comes back without the ascot because I can be that cruel. And as I’m emotionally ostracized and lie about having to work early because his eyes start looking a little angry, I can wander off home. Alone but a little glad- proud and the champion of my own misery.

“You’re kind of a bitch, you know that?” He said.

I guess he never worked in retail

Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful (aka Any Mythical Beast Try To Step They Are Catching These Hands)

Evenings are my clementine, when the sun dips and the world bundles into itself. An atmosphere perfect for the monomania of melancholy, where the mass of sound has a quiet you’re afraid to disturb. Like a cutting board to gut these thoughts. There’s dirt beneath my fingernails and my lungs taste like apple cider beers and tinder. Tents pitched some distance apart, the soft swish of sifting body bags and sex tinge the air.

Beyond the bonfire is a boundless void and damp darkness, with monsters, goblins, ghouls and God knows what lurking in the shadows. Twigs snap, earth brushed, A movement that isn’t human and yellow eyes dancing wildly out in the expanse. I stand and take my phone like a lantern towards them, because bourbon veins and my sex make me courageous. Let me face demons before the lush or my virtue fades untested.

I am alone but not, in a quiet I am afraid to disturb.  Like in my city I am braving the night, but in a different type of solidarity. There is no loneliness in nature, only peace and an acute sense of how insignificant you are. But as the moon makes wet shadows on the floor and I raise my sword, the monsters that greet me have names. Tara, Joseph and Adam. Lost, bleary, red eyed, high and chuckling; empty head nods.

A deep desire for isolation overwhelms me. I want to be alone, but more so. To be by myself is not enough. Some pieces would remain, parts, fragments, fractions of dismantled moments floating through the recess of all that thought they knew me. All my love(s) and acquaintances stumbling on a memory of me like a tombstone. Notebooks full of words and a catalogue of half-started almosts. Someone somewhere would come across something Summer or frost enough to summon me and think, Oh-Yeah-Just-Like-Him. Pollute me with their thoughts. No, I want to be alone, but more so. Memory is a form of life, a mental gossip, social whisper, scandal and internal dialogue. Casual inferences never spoken but permanently embedded in thoughts. I crave something more permanent- to be erased and irreversibly forgotten.

To be alone without the pollution of what another person thinks.

To face monsters, not people. 

The Cassandra Complex

You can’t honestly love a dishonest thing, and the loneliest women always find a way to me. With their steel eyes and emptied hands, pockets full of lint and wedding rings. SoCal socio-megalomaniacs; idle, only innit for the lol’s and cheap thrills. Desperate, for attention maybe, often restless and occasionally cold feet. Melancholy misfits and Tinder-ed housewives, specifically of the military variety (Here’s Looking At You, Kid) curious to see beyond the veil and iron curtain of their staled lives of routine.

“Little young for jazz, aren’t you?” Says Marianne.

Everybody’s got an audience, my uncle used to say, and I happen to know mine very intimately. I provide risk with a bit of comfort, I suppose; the safety of A hedged bet when the thought that There-Could -Be-Something-Better-Than-This creeps into your bed sheets and makes a home inside your head. Because nobody puts baby in a corner or ever really bets it all on black, that stuffs for the movies, so the easiest way to steal second base is by keeping a foot on first.

“I won’t card you if you don’t card me,” I replied.

Friday’s are dry, dull, and take forever to get you anywhere like a NY taxi. When the office population is sparse and I can’t bare the sound of another fax or thunk of the copy machine, I like to throw on Spotify to help fill the empty hours in anything work appropriate. Personal playlist are a hard pass and immediate negative; there’s far too many expletives and small tragedies behind those lyrics for me to care about e-mails, when Arctic Monkeys are asking the only two questions I give a damn about. Whatever’s on top of the charts sounds so recycled I can’t tell one song from the other, and is usually popular for the kind of people who still laugh at the word faggot or don’t shut the fuck up about Beyonce.

And I honestly don’t really need that kind of noise in my life. So Jazz stations are the safest bet, not necessarily out of choice, but a process of elimination. Much like Marianne.

“It’s not polite to ask a woman her age,”

“I never said I cared.”

She was pretty. Not hot, beautiful, stunning, breath-taking or amazing. Pretty, like a painting or very well kept apartment. She had a fading glow of gorgeous, the makeup, accent nail and deep-vee blouses stressing just the right amount of collar bone and decolletage to make her desirable. But there was a hunger about her, a poverty of touch, expressive gestures of the mouth, hands, and tongue. Eyes that said yes to questions I hadn’t been asking.

When she talked she had a habit of putting a hand against my arm or chest, remarking casually about receptionist schedules or what Debra said to her last week. Let it rest and linger for just enough time for it to be considered suggestive, although not entirely inappropriate. While I go by on empty head nods, trying hard not to smile in a way that’s too obvious or says Hi-My-Eyes-Are-Up-Here.

“Have you had lunch yet? I’d kill for some eggplant. Doesn’t some eggplant sound so good right now?” She asks. A loaded question as far as emojis were concerned.

“The killing or the eggplant?” I say. And she smiles, not answering.

Honesty is the best policy and I am a liar of the worst degree. But God is good and prone to favoring symmetry, so She evened me with a horrible poker face, so bad the only way I could be any more obvious would be a tail wagging between my legs. Which, in a sense, there actually is.

“How’s Richard?” I ask. A Self sabotage, because I love to ruin things for myself.

Poor Richard, off on a different kind of fishing. I’d heard his legend, the atypical over protective and underwhelming handsome- pale, blue eyed and red tan lines notorious in men of adventure. Likely under the impression that golden ticket of appearance and arm candy doesn’t start to fade after six years of a flat-lined marriage, hadn’t seen the signs in the sand of Marianne building castles elsewhere.

“Around. Visiting his brothers.” She says, her thoughts elsewhere.

I couldn’t blame her. Emotional ransom is a dick move and there’s nothing worst than feeling indebted to someone. Infidelity is a sin big as littering, in my humble opinion, especially if the alternative is a long conversation on what’s wrong that is on its fifth resurgence. Nut up or shut up, I guess, but that’s much easier to say without a mortgage and your entire life nailed down to another person.

“You should call him,” I say, and quite honestly. She scoffs like I’d ask her for ID and takes her hand from my arm, collects herself in a physical retreat.

Un chiodo fuori un chiodo,” She says.

“What?”

“It’s Italian. It means, a nail takes out a nail. Or, you need a nail to forget a nail. Something like that.”

I understood, I think, how much cheaper it is to add another coat of paint than go all in on another lease. How we bury uncomfortable in other things, money, people, sex, memes.

“Sounds like a painful way to solve a problem.” I say.

“I’m going downstairs to close up. Keep your phone on in case I get stuck,” She says, dismissively, turning away from me and the suggestion down the hall.

Leaving me to wonder why do I not lose my voice when the moments are so critical? Why do I see a light at the end of tunnels and look for shadows? I’m terrified of not standing in my truth, of growing younger, because regression is a form of death and I’m proud of the monster I’ve worked so hard to become. Was it desperation? A hunger and poverty of the soul? Unexpressed gestures of the mind, heart, and tongue. Sometimes, above all else, I wish I knew how to just shut the fuck up and enjoy a bad thing well.

A while passes and my phone screen lights up, with a message from Marianne.

“Deb leave yet”

The worse weight a man can carry is a conscience, and a best practice among sex and love addicts anonymous is to pack light.

“Negative.”

Because the top of one mountain is the bottom of the next, especially when it comes to orgasms.

“Come to elevator rm when she does”

It’s heaven on the way down but one hell of a climb up. Which may make me a hypocrite, but only on a technicality.

“Are you trapped again?”

Like atheist who moan about God during sex.

“No. Bring 🍆”

Un chiodo fuori un chiodo.

There’s No Street Cleaning In Providence

Father-

Your days weigh more than the family around your neck.
Nine months and nine pounds without your voice or hand,
my mother called, and you said: “Give Him My Name, Noel.”
And she abided, faithfully, by the promises made
that warm May night. But years proved these words,
like so many other parts of you,
were broken, and so I am yours
in name only.

I haven’t your dark eyes, fair skin or welcome wiles.
That cooing air of arrogance
in your smile, or the graceful way your beard
rises and settles into a dignified chin.
Your daughters are your spitting image,
shorter and effeminate, but telling tales
of their ancestry by the nines
of their soft and thoughtfully thin
eyes, a wild nose above cupid bow lips.

I am not like them;
every camera and mirror whispers,
how my genes have aborted you.
And yet strangers say the strangest things-
like that I am most your son when I look most annoyed.
Something in the nothing of demeanor
makes me summon your image to men and women
that have known you. The passive opening and closing of a fist.
In a folded leg, an unconsciously tapping foot,
staring into the distance with a cigarette dangling from my lip.
All of these acts I thought my self are borrowed,
are not my own, are ghostly references to a man
this man
who grew up growing you
says are bestowed;
are reflections of the seed
being strong.

But…how?

My first razor was from the deli man,
his eyes lost when I asked him how to do it,
until he could understand that I was young and
that I needed. My first day of school was Johanna
ironing clothes, running me over with a lint brush,
combing my hair and reminding me
no girl likes a boy who sucks his thumbs.
Sex came from a box, a secret, a word of mouth
passed along the boys and bus rides.
Shared and studied in the dim blue tint of monitors
and television screens when nobody could see us
in our vile innocence. YouTube learned me
with tutorials, my first suit from my first check
a baggy thing. Green shirt, black tie, but
from your few visits I’d already known
how to make a knot
having been left in one.

Yet I am most your son when I look most annoyed.
The passive opening and closing of a fist. A folded leg.
An unconsciously tapping foot. Staring into the distance
with a cigarette dangling from my lip.

And I wonder, can character carry in a vein?
Have I shed and denied your look but not your scowl?
Am I as doomed as you are, to the rum on my breath
and vagabonding with the boys on Tuesday night’s
rather than with my family home? Father,
our days are numbered like the calendar
and when I’m fugitive to a feeling;
waxing gibbons and poetics at the moon,
I’m tempted to think my temperament is nothing
more than an heirloom. Is a remnant of you
in the recesses of my blood,
and I’m tempted to take a razor and gut you out.

But there is no salvation in suffering your self;
it’s best to leave that to the masochist.

Instead I’ll wear your name proudly,
but like a cautionary tale.
Instead I’ll learn to love
better than how you’ve taught me.

Well.

Because Every Goodbye Needs A Name (And This Ones Yours)

Another person’s apartment can be terrifying. The way the vase is cut, China shaped, and bedroom laid at such strange angles. There’s a windfall of history on the vase by the windowsill, vortexes of the past lying in throw pillows and dead eyed picture frames glaring from the dresser. I wouldn’t dare look in her closet, where entire eras are forever expanding in his old t-shirts and a shoe-box piled in yesterday’s love letters.

So many pieces of a person on display can make you feel like at any given moment their reality might swallow you whole.

“The next time you snore so loud I’m kicking you out.” She said.

We were having breakfast in her kitchen warm as the silence of the morning. Her cream blinds held back the brightness of the sun, but the snow building on her window sills shimmered into the room and came stabbing through the dim. Elis liked the night as much as I did. She was fine with simply existing and letting me and life alone, so long as she could be herself and go along her own playful, sinister way.

“What if there’s a storm?” I asked. And she answered with a shrug.

Elis was lonely as a firework – sharp and quick, over way too soon, and beautiful. Shuffling in her chair, dark and dank as her favorite memes, rolling her eyes at my long stares and stealing glances from her veggie omelet. Obvious enough to notice but never admit to, her affection was bloody and juvenile. It ran and pinched and hurt enough to remind you that you were real, and every day with her made me painfully gracious for life, like skinned knees.

Her iHome speaker popped to life and a hum of music came between us.

“I love this song, listen…” She said.

Drums and a distant pluck of a guitar strung softly, harmonous. The sound of rain and footsteps pacing against the damp clay of Earth. It resonated with images of forest, of nature, of Africa and distant lands I would never know but held a notion of. A man spoke with the rhythm: calm, tenor, and confident. What he was saying I didn’t know but he said it avidly, a moving moan of ache, of pain, of a violent inner victory. While saying nothing he said everything, spoke the wordless hymns I often heard chorus silently within me.

For a moment I wondered what he was saying but decided against it. A translation would have been a mutilation. Some things are not meant to be known, but only vaguely understood.

“Pass the ketchup” Elis said, and I stared at her like a sphinx. I couldn’t understand or come to terms with her laissez faire. She was refreshingly blunt, disarming and forward- like a poem with too many curses in it. When she saturnines my Sunday morning with that frank, playful innocence, I’m reminded of the subtle intimacy in a pair of bare knees.

“We could be like this, you know.” I said. “Nice to each other.”

She laughed, shy. Kittenish.

“No,” She said. “I don’t want that.”

“Why not.”

She chewed her egg and glanced around the room, looking for the words. The drums and man trapped in the speaker sang on with a blue and bridled passion.

“Because it isn’t fun.” She said finally.

I wondered what it was that drew me to her, why that thoughtless honesty was so refreshing. How her dark smile made me giddy and thawed so puckishly at adulthood.

Adulthood, that prison of constraint by way of conventional. I thought of bygone lovers, artfully carting their personalities and intellect on a cell phone. Yawning over life in half-wit consciousness. Quiet, empty head nods and cataract conversations, calculated candids. They were wordy, they were wise, they were sensitive to words and sunsets.

The kind of women I considered smart, in my stupidity. They were many things, but they weren’t Elis.

A wild, sudden impulse punctured me and I flicked a finger. A dozen ketchup packets flew across the floor, scattered in six different directions, and a thousand moons couldn’t compare to Elis’ beautifully annoyed smile.

“Fucking asshole,” She, lied. And was right.

This was more fun.