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.”
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.
I was born once but have died many times, a suicides cacophony,
dressed down to the 9’s in dismantled almost and
New York is covered in my gravestones.
145th and Park, drowned in taco flavored kisses
and horchata. Time of death: when her lips met mine (1:59AM)
Lost count how many lives lost down Amsterdam,
Jakes dilemma like mine: Do or Don’t,
a simple answer when you’re young
Yet it all went south with Chris on West 4th,
stuttering on words said, choking on courage
and the empty soliloquy. .
Singing up Lexington, laughter loud in our lungs,
wild and bewildering, the way love should.
He had on ripped jeans and the fountains were pink,
moonlight dazzling, surrounding me, pale eyes
drenched in passion. Kisses hidden by the scaffolding,
59th Street and Madison, rusted love to stir the stale blood.
A deathless death in inches, physical symphony
and reawakening from the tomb of myself.
The bedroom is covered in rebirth, amniotic evidence,
Past Dyre Avenue where God waits in open arms,
and heaven can come twice, with patience.
“You’re the American who didn’t want to come meet me?”
“I’m shy,” I lied, covering my face and embellishing. She laughed, falsely, throwing her shoulders back in a sort of exaggeration of herself.
“So you’re afraid of women?”
“Only the very beautiful ones.”
Her large eyes examined me in a way that made me uncomfortable. Quick, darting, loaded and looking for something. It wasn’t the way people looked at each other and I felt she was assessing me, weighing the quality of my face and character the way butchers check livestock in the meat market. So I did the same: She was gorgeous, skin like honey and a small, sensual frame. A shape that curved in ways pleasing to the eyes and more primal urges. And my eyes must have betrayed me, because in her glass reflection I saw a spark. Some silent affirmation that decided – “Yes, this ones fine.”
Her chaperones played the masters of ceremonies, hyping her qualities and whispering in the sidelines all the dark things I should do. We sang and danced in Patchanka, crawled wildly up and down Obispo unhinged and ordering beers for the kindest faces. Took breaks from undertones and sexual tensions with relaxed conversations about the beauty of a well sung salsa, joked pleasantly about her not wearing a bra and how bad my Spanish was.
Every so often she would casually press her side against my body, run a hand along my chest or neck. Staring into my eyes with an odd look of surrender, of offering; as if saying yes to a question I wasn’t asking.
“I could never take you home,” I said to her very frankly.
“So you think I’m ugly,” She replied playfully with a shove.
“The opposite. You’re one of the prettiest women I’ve ever seen. If I shared a bed or afternoon with you, it would be like something out of a dream. I’d never stop showing pictures of you to people, saying- ‘Look, see here, isn’t she the loveliest woman you’ve ever seen? And can you believe she’s interested in a guy like me?’ But I get the impression you want something. The way you look at me, it makes me doubtful. I could never trust your affection, unless you told me what it is, what it was, you were after, what you need. I’d gladly give it to you, honestly. If I can- if you would tell me. After that, I would be sure. It would show in your eyes and I would know if you really desired me, then maybe I could desire you as well.”
The confession, playful as I meant it, made an impression I did not expect. The spark in her eyes faded, and for a moment was replaced by something bordering on human. A sort of softness settled into the edges of her corneas, as if I tumbled onto a core and center too sentimental for such a jest. And admittedly, in reflection, perhaps my remarks were cruel in their truthful.
She laughed, a sound that came from somewhere much deeper than what she falsetto’d before, and tilted her head at me with a sort of pity.
“Eres noble,” She said, in a tone that may have been a compliment, but rang more of disappointment.
“Noble?” I asked.
“It means you’re a fag,” Chimed the chaperone.
And the three of them wandered away, without me.
Crowded back seats, a choking lust
for sex, for life, for mushrooms,
weed, cigarettes, ecstasy and dick jokes.
My twenties a hard blur of important moments,
never the full cut, like clips from a music video
the teenage years strive for but
never had enough access to the confidence
or drugs to see it through. An era one might consider
overkill, petty, premature, and thoughtless, down the road,
but that’s tomorrow and my therapist problem.
I like the wild restless crowd:
people you don’t necessarily trust
but never mind having around.
Only benefits without the friends.
Deep down I think Hannah’s the kind of cunt
who’d fuck your boyfriend on your own bed
and not have the decency to take her shoes off.
but she calls me handsome, and compliments my haircut,
so she might fuck me too one day,
and hey, pobody’s nerfect.
Validation is funny, necessary,
like air, gravity or taxes, I guess,
but I don’t understand it.
Then again, there’s many things
I don’t understand. Most, actually.
Like marriage, and microwaves,
or friends who call
“just to see what’s up.”
Cynical, paranoid, maybe, but
I try to see the angles.
Ask me how my day was,
and my answer’s always
Feelings are cute but can turn monstrous, and should never be fed after midnight like Mogwais. None the less, or more the lesser, I waited for her in Connolly’s, wetting my desires with a whiskey neat and giving names to the little gremlins taking shape around my head and heart.
My mother always said an idle mind was Lucifer’s playground, and I never tempt the devil unless I’m ready to dance. Especially not after 12:00AM, the darkest hour, where you’re either climbing to the top of the world or on the verge of being crushed by it. Luckily my mind was made up and I had on my most comfortable shoes.
Enter Felice, stage left, who walked into the bar looking like the kind of girl they write songs about. Gorgeous enough to know it, so I made it a point to not make that obvious.
“Haven’t I seen you wear that shirt before?”
“Where do you get it?” She asked.
“My shirt? You know I only shop at Hot Topic.”
“No, this confidence you definitely don’t deserve.”
The air smelled like starched shirts and too much perfume. My heart strung on the soft tendons of her knuckles that left me wondering where the arch of her neck leads. A feminine physique, the scent of raspberries; wide hips narrowing. What a waist for time.
Sex, such a a cheap trick and emotional shortcut; like skipping to the best part of your favorite song when you’re drunk. A quick high without the progress or buildup, that burns out as fast as it lights up and taste only as good as the oral is. But it’d been a while and I needed to feel a little needed, even if it were from somebody I didn’t give much of a damn about. But first there was the social foreplay, and some of the little monsters in me liked to chew the fat long enough to leave the bone dry.
“The smartest diseases,” I said. “Are the kinds that can disguise themselves to look like it’s a part of you. Fool the body into thinking it’s just another blood cell. That’s the way it is with people, too: fake it til you take over their immune system.”
“You just compared yourself to cancer,” She said.
So beautifully cruel. She enriches me as a lover but ruins the romantic, makes lighter all those tragedies I rattle at with a beer can. Kissed by fire and freckled in 80’s rock ballads; she was terrible at the song of vice and liars. Honest to a fault with fireworks in her eyes- Felice, you had to smile to say her name. Hair halfway down her back and a dip between her shoulder blades. Thin fingernails and long, smooth knuckles that looked like almonds hiding under a milky bar of chocolate. Smokers lips and eyebrows that were always either feigning surprise or frowning.
“But I’m a Taurus.” I said. And she tried very admirably not to laugh.
We had met from a mutual acquaintance at a rooftop bar over near the west end last Summer. We remained light friends, occasional Facebook comment and a meme for posterity sake. An acquaintance that never quite made it as a friend, but if she had ever cut ties and left, I would be a husk. Because a cage without a bird is an empty thing.
“Tell me something.” I said.
“Anything, as long as it’s not about your how much you hate your boss.”
Her eyes rolled, so drastically she nearly back-flipped, then fell restlessly on the crowd. Searching between the bodies, as if somewhere in the sea of strangers she could have found what she meant to say. What are you wondering at, you beautiful wonder. But that’s just the way she was- with a heaven in her smile and a frown in her eyes, the kind of storm in her thighs that consumed you by degrees.
“I don’t want to end up alone,” She said, a bit too honestly.
Company comes with conditioning, a terrible case of cotton mouth and Pavlov’s jaw, that creaks and rust and is afraid at any attempt at something honest. I couldn’t stand it, the pseudo sociable. Talking about your job and weather is conventional and safe, but feels more like a constraint than a conversational mattress. I could only get along with people that people call unhinged – the kind that are un-apologetically themselves and never learn to stop sniffing markers. Alcoholics, drug abusers, sex and love addicts anonymous. I fell into them the way people fall into bad habits and addictions.
“You just haven’t met the right person yet.” I parroted, not thinking, just responding in the way some blood cells and chemical reactions are supposed to.
“But I hate that idea. Of fucking…I don’t know, presupposing. Like meeting someone is so inevitable. If you can find happiness in different things, in like, songs, or traveling, or a really good book, why should mine have to come from some other person?”
We sat there, loud, but empty. Like glass bottles clinking. Humanity is a strange enigma, toasting to his or her own empty fantasia- specific instances of precise happiness undefinable by sobriety. An escape endlessly clouded by the myriad of errors that got you there. Forgotten, wasted, and inexplicable. Taken for granted like keys you swore you lost but show up at your bedside.
“They write songs about people who fall in love the way you do.” I said coming from a haze, shooing the last few gremlins. “But that’s all they are. They’re just songs.”
My lies are noble. I didn’t think that was necessarily true, but perhaps what she needed to hear. Misleading a horse to water is a treason I’m likely to commit, even if those were never my intentions. Because then again, what consequences ever are?
She looked back to the crowd a little angrily, ran her knuckles on the counter in a way that made me hungry, and smiled like she had just said her own name. Her pupils stuttered and whatever emotion that almost revealed itself winced back to the chasm from where it came.
“You’re a good guy,” She said.
“I’m no hero.”
“No,” She replied with a smile. “Heroes don’t shop at Hot Topic.”
Twenty something and full of stupid, sliding into your DM’s without a shame in the world. “Wyd” texts after midnight are a 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded, and I’m watching from the bench thinking I might just steal home.
I’m the type of guy that needs to set 4 alarms to wake up on time, dressing myself up in moments that don’t mean a thing to me. But I’ve read enough Dostoevsky and Nietzche to make just about anybody think they do. Boredom is an understatement: what I suffer from is an emotional atrophy. When you can’t stand grand-standing any more and need to feel something, so the nearest dead end starts feeling like a welcome sign.
Some addictions aren’t so easy to kick – especially habits that text you back to say they miss you too.
“sure” the text read. “wats one drink”
“Ask Socrates.” I replied
“that was hemlock u fucking nerd 😓”
And I knew it would be a good night.