It was the second week of summer and I was riding high in friends and parties without a care or clue of what was to come. Eighteen is such a brittle age, not easily impressed but so tragically impressionable. Adulthood loomed on the corner of job and college applications I neglected to apply to. There would a time for that later, I thought, right after these beers and excessive experimentation with girls and social so-and-so’s. Don’t-even-get-me-started is the procrastinators mantra, and I carried my would-be’s misguided, but like a titan.
Tiffany was leaving soon, I forget to where. Cruising west Manifest Destiny bound on a four year college scholarship, dinner with the mayor, more books and grades to ace while the world her oyster. Lately we’d become surprisingly tender towards one another. I stopped trying to convince her to stay or love me, and instead only wanted to enjoy what little time I had left of her. She must have felt the same, I thought. Short sighted or naive as we may have been I suppose the both of us knew, instinctively, without a word or approach of the subject, that September 3rd would mark a change in both of us forever.
Milton and Anderson, cousins, were throwing a party that Friday. Surprisingly, she was the one who brought it up over the phone.
“It’s this Friday,” she said.
“Yeah I heard.”
“I might end up going.”
“But then who will close the library?”
“I’m sorry, what? I don’t speak Jerk.”
“Come with me,” I said. “It’ll be our prom.”
We’d never gone to prom, or rather, I didn’t. She asked me to, to share a limo with her, Christine, Tamara and Chloe. Her friends, a herd of herbivore What-Do-You-Even-See-In-Him’s. As much as I thought I loved Tiffany, the decline was telling. I didn’t love her enough to sit five minutes with her condescending friends. Through the tragic of social media it later surfaced she’d gone with another guy, Anthony something was his name. I forget.
“Pick me up at 8.” She said. “And you better fucking shave.”
I arrived at her house at 7:40PM sharp. We’d had many an argument in the past on account of my always being late. My excuse was that rushing was stupid, immaterial and pointless. That a friend, a real friend, or love, is not a job that needs punctuality. It needs patience.
“Yeah,” she said. “But it’s also inconsiderate. If you say three but know you won’t get there until three thirty, then just say three thirty. That’s half an hour you’re wasting on my road to a Nobel prize.”
That was the way of words she had. And its ironic, how that mock arrogance and punctuality are two of my most discerning features.
On the way to her house I remember feeling very good, happy, and a little bittersweet. I was aware that tonight was just another night, no change to the inevitable drift distance makes. But we’d never been out together, not to a party. She preferred movies, parks and picnics, quiet nights at home. She’d never seen me in what I then considered my element- the social isotope, loud and loutish, brazen and a clown to a row of strangers. I’d never shared her with my friends or took her hand in public. I’d never held her in a room full of people in a pretty dress.
This will be a good goodbye, I thought.
I rang the bell and her brother, the druggy one, answered the door with a glaze of red nirvana coloring his eyes and spotty beard. Dazed and a little daft, he nodded me in absently, drifted through the walls back to his marijuana smelling basement.
I sat waiting in her living room by the oak colored cabinet and flower blotted sofa. I remember looking at the familiar door to her room, excited, waiting for her to step out looking amazing in a…in a something. That green streak in her hair and fire in her eyes, coy and dryly staring at me to Stop-That.
The door opened and she stepped into the hall in an oversized white t-shirt. But what grabbed me most was not her wardrobe. It wasn’t the nervous in her face or worry in her step. It was the looming figure in her room staring blankly back at me, laying with a tank top and scruffy hair across her bed. Anthony something was his name, I forget. Suma cum laudie. He ran the robotics team at school and was another high hope senior on his way to a top tier college and brighter things in life.
“Sorry I….(something)….meant to call but then….(something)…not getting my text?” I think was what she said. I wasn’t sure. I couldn’t really hear anything over the sound of a deafening and violent white noise that pulsed inside my head and vibrated against my skin.
I don’t remember much of that part. Just nodding along once or twice, saying goodbye and walking calmly out the door.
My mind was blank and so was the world, the air felt stale and my tongue so dry. I walked in a random direction for however long, directionless, and while some noun or adjective might better describe the circumstance I was in, my memory paints it as that one dull word- blank. Just blank. Too shocked and taken back for any hint of sadness or rage to overcome me.
Tiffany…no, everything, it felt like, let me down. Life was a series of bad jokes I could not see the humor in. I ended up going to the party anyway. I laughed and made jokes and danced with girls I thought were pretty. I even took Jennifer back home that night. We had sex in the shower which I bragged about for years, like the rest of the day and nothing ever happened. I kept right on living that night, and every day since. Even today I don’t feel sad about it. Nostalgic, partially, but not sad.
Still, and it is difficult explaining the how or why, but I know something died within me that day. I still feel that blank darkness cataract my decisions when someone I love shows the slightest hint of unsure or indecisive. I walk away from people easily and flippant, broad and sure as a titan. Atlas too apathetic to shrug. I just don’t care.
I’ve never even been to prom.
You have an awful memory and I need remind you:
Nick has just as strange a laugh as you do. You don’t see him often but his heart is bright and being around him feels warm. His jokes are awful but you laugh anyway. Not like work, not like when a stranger says something that isn’t funny and you want to be polite. You laugh because he is not funny to a fault and he knows it and remains himself anyway. You laugh because there is something magical and beautiful about someone who is so unappologetically himself as you are. His wife makes weed brownies and calls you a pussy when you decline, but she doesn’t think you’re a pussy. She’s as hard edged and boiled as the rest of you, and though you see her just as rarely, she feels as if she’d never not been one with you and the group. Jacob is just the player as ever. The women still like his smile and when he turns a phrase or makes That face at “It slipped in my mouth,” you remember any ounce of fun or boyish charm is borrowed from him. Its close to two am and now everyones at rest. Tomorrow will be an eve and end but only feels like a beginning. You never quite feel home or well with anyone or anywhere. But this moment you feel right.
Isn’t it strange that she reminds you of someone you’ve never met before. So silent and full of storms. There’s something violent in the quiet of her eyes. Two coals that look like they’re crying at the sun. Her smile has a frown in it and the way she scoffs at tall talk tells she’s either hard or critical of happiness. People are talking and glasses are clinking and the diner is spinning but the rock of the world was founded securely on her freckled cheek. You asked her name and she took your hand, wrote down CAROLINE in bold black marker. “You know. So you won’t forget again.” She had said and the coals flashed a cool grin. She liked to bite at heels. You could play that game. If you had a tail it would have been wagging.
Her laugh was magic.
You allow yourself a moment.
Sanguine is sappy and happiness is so very fickle. Even now with ones you love and your hearts belonging you feel that nag. That tinge of melancholy. You almost washed it down in a bottle and neglect but remembered September and that trying to forget begets nothing. You allow yourself a moment to be somber on the deck while that familiar grey and sully cloud thunders over you. The air is mint and smarts with cold, and as you breathe out you expected to find yourself the same color as your mourning. But you were not. You see Caroline give you the finger from the window and Jacob makes the motion of a shakeweight. And then the music rises and fills you with warmth, you return to the merry as a friend and not a stranger.
The din of conversation and cheerful embracing has ended to a soft 4am silence and grim affair. You got a text wishing you the best and a happy new year full holding loaded sentiments between ellipses. Dot dot dots saying more than they could admit to. Ex oh ex oh ex oh’s and a smiley face from a number you always recognize. A number that comes screeching from the past and tugging you back every year and time she’s hurt and needs your love. Interpersonal become savage like mogwais if you feed them after midnight.
“New year new you?” Caroline chimed from the reflection of your cell phone. Words you mocked on a Facebook status and Instagram as the sure signs of a try hard. The coals in her eyes are heavy but that fire just doesn’t die. Its what you will always love and remember about her.
Caroline took a seat beside you on the step, a drag off your cigarette, and a slice of your heart in her hand when she lay her golden head against your shoulder. She will be your last Maybe of 2015, the final chapter of a dark saga you feel merits a happy ending.
“You talk too much.” You said.
“Oh yeah? Shut me up then tough guy.”
And you did.
David thinks his faith will save him, but death is coming for us all. Tuesday doesn’t care how long he’s worked, his tired eyes hiding behind his kind smile and midnight shift. A halo of perspiration steaming from his broad and hunching back, grays surrounding the edges of beard and other places where they shouldn’t be. His head, his arms, his chest; but not his heart. Tomorrow he’ll be trimming the hedges around the church, and David isn’t Pentecostal, but what’s it cost to do something nice for someone else?, he says.
David is sulking home from lifting sixty pound boxes and weighted pallets until the wee hours of 4am. I’m recovering from myself and too much Bacardi on the front steps, offer him a cigarette and don’t bother asking how his day was. Because we both know it was miserable. His body is a walking exhaust, crying aches behind a wide and haughty grin his experience doesn’t deserve. Forty five fieing for fifteen dollars an hour, starved for sleep with meandering teenagers just out for a buck and high. He does his best for the two kids waiting upstairs, I forget their names. Somewhere around three and six, and the light inside of him doesn’t stop thinking of others.
“How’s your mom?” He says, like my circumstance means much more than his own.
David is too good for my own good- barely keeping a grip and offering hands he doesn’t have. Here was a man being destroyed and I had the nerve to think myself worse off. I could feel myself becoming consumed and overwhelmed by the world- but not by David and his tragedy, or an excessive and unrelenting emotion. No, my days were awfully regular and pained by nothing but the dull sharpness of routine. Of complacency. Where men far greater than I suffered wars, famine, and persecution, I only struggled to maintain my sanity against the bland reality of existence. The unmentionable and troublesome degrade, not against the graze of strife and grenades, but worried and debased by the grey life.
“She’s good, but hates when I travel,” I said. Because his type of perfect disturbed me. I needed to see some envy, some lust, any kind of ugly that might make the disgusting bubbling in me feel dignified.
“She’s good, but she complains when I leave New York. I was in Cuba last month, I think I told you? Sayed in this little studio near parque central, it’s like their central park. It was this studio with a great view and the landlady never bothered me. I came home at three, four, five in the morning, or sometimes not at all. And she didn’t care. Three days in a row I met her in the elevator, and each time it was with a different girl. But she never said a thing. Once it turned out they knew the same cab driver, grew up in the same town or something. But my mom, she hates things like that. She thinks I should settle down and calls those kinds of girls prostitutes. ”
David chuckled where I didn’t expect him to and looked sad when there should be a punch line. He was excited for my youth and all the dumb I’d done, and while he applauded it, at the same time, he managed to make me feel guilty and not condone it.
“In a row? You’re crazy,” He said. “I thought you were going back for the cigars but obviously not. What’s important is that you had a great time, and I know you wouldn’t tell those ladies anything that wasn’t at least bordering on the truth. Listen- you’re young. You need to be that. No, not stupid, just young. Go to Cuba, go to Germany, go to Bermuda, go. Just go. And don’t worry about it having to end, because it will when it needs to.”
They say each man must bear his cross, but Atlas carries the most. Silently the world turns on his back, silently he winces at the grinding on his shoulder blades. And he still offers a hand, not to Herucles, but a nobody on a stoop turned stupid in disposable income.
“Where you going next?” He asked, my heart on the break of a sigh.
David thinks his faith will save him. And even if it won’t, in a way, he’s saving me.
Our lighting sucks and we take bad selfies, there’s nothing in the fancy bar or liquor shelf we bought because its Sunday and we already drank it all. It’s humid and our hair isn’t meant to be this curly but in our defense what kind of animal wears makeup to the beach? The boardwalk is a Nordstrom of whatever it is you want – hoop earrings and the feelings of 1986 still kicking in the ocean shells glittering on the ear piece. Do you like it? You could be over there, but you aren’t. Are you just that bored or am I just that pretty?
A little of both,
“I just had a shower that was wonderful,” Karina said. “But there’s something in the air that troubles me. This feeling that, tonight, there’s something a little off about you. A thought that’s invasive and makes you act this way. It sounds like…crickets from my window, and it’s not alarming, but it’s there.”
How had she learned my moods so quickly? There’s always a silence in me that’s not so quiet nor my own- full of crickets, left-over sentiments, bubble-gummed sidewalks and marooned moonlight. The phantoms and faceless anxieties I am perpetually facing are nameless, despite the labels and disordered name-tags; are large as the clouds and just as vague, hard to pin into anything so definitive and limiting as a sentence. Tonight’s specters are Friendship, A Sense of Belonging, Suffering and The Much Less Fortunate. With a special guest performance by Empathy & Minutiae. Analyzing the underlying message beneath the most complex social cues and feintest text just saying ‘hey’.
“Call me when you have the chance. I have something to tell you later, even if it means we’ll never speak again.”
I like to over-think because emotions are so unreliable and sticky: like children’s hands at birthday parties. Reason makes much more sense and I love to overanalyze a feeling, but I’m a sucker for attention. Give me the slightest piñata string of affection, and I can get more than just a little hung up on being the helpless one in a relationship. And being the self-bruting masochist that I am, a part of me quite enjoys it. I already know Karina has to confess that she is already in a relationship, but I’ll not let misery have me this time. And rage can exit stage fuck-off, because I already know from all those tires that I’ve kicked that it’s impotent. That nothing ever comes from it.
My mother once told me life is much like a chain- that we are smithed and molded to fit one another like the links on a fence. She meant it in a very old and semi-Catholic way: a butterfly effect that says what each of us are, at birth, is inherent- and thus what we are will inevitably attract only a certain type of person. A personality that connects. I never believed her, but if this was true, my maker must have made me as the ideal third for cucks.
“Is this because I forgot your birthday?” I said, because strings of the heart were made for tugging. “I’m sorry I didn’t listen, I’ve gotten too comfortable with you. We’ve only just recently met but for some reason it feels like we’ve known each other for so much longer. As if this was something we always did.”
Only women of a certain disposition find my demeanor type appealing – and whether they were bored, out of love, desperate for attention or a despot, I couldn’t say. And even if I could, it wouldn’t be my place to judge.
“That made my heart sigh,” Her text said. “How do you phrase what I want to say not knowing that I want to say it?”
Because I love you, and my endings are written clear across the chain-link.
Such bold and violent little mortars. Silent killers
on a timer that explode like an idea.
Bang and death and shrapnel compacted to a pocket;
hand held hazards, lightning in a bottle.
Portable paralyzers stun and blinding on delivery.
How do you throw grenades?
Such small and angry little things. Tiny tempers that explode
full of hate or gunpowder. Do you throw them like a text,
a thoughtless lob and wait, loaded like a kiss, or press the
ember to the wick with a malicious tongue and cackle. Or
do you hesitate, do you consider
the burst of blood and shrapnel.
Does regret deter bereavement,
do you pull the pin and
How do you throw grenades?
Such bliss. After war any headache is a reprieve from the
storm, a temporary escape from the debris of soot,
of bones and ashes bared like a regret.
The dust trebles, the trenches clear, calm and simmered
walks back home on a Tuesday having left before sixth period.
An idle daw superimposes over bullet wounded memories,
calculated candids, and a 1,000 yard stare
glaring into the precise awe of calm and nothing.
A staring contest with the sun.
And what have we left except the pin
still pulsing in our palm
and another hand to hold in Autumn
to close the gaps we feel between us.
“Are you awake?” You want to say, but you don’t.
His guitar gullies in the corner, still. Wood and golden as his breathing as he sleeps beside you. An Adonis? No, maybe a Midas. A touch full of ruin you couldn’t disturb because what a peaceful perfection is the steady palpitations of his back. Your hand reaches for him but winces, no, not yet. It’s only 3AM and his sleep isn’t deep enough. So you watch the back of his neck trying to read between the lines and soft locks your fingers know all too well. He has the talent and latent mishaps of an artist; a body bordering on megalomaniac when his temperament is bored enough to cheat on you.
But who was she? You wouldn’t know, although you’d like to. Reluctant masochist as you are, you never dared to ask. Instead you wrote it down on a notebook full of questions you promised to ask when he came home tired and stinking of band bars and his lust of you. You’ve always had a thing for the kind of men that can’t keep still in their affections. Wander-lust would be an under-statement to what you felt when staring out a window, two wings shy of taking a dive and flying to where lungs would take you. Was she beautiful?, you think, Or did she admire you with the same eyes you did that night in a cab ride he made his face turn more shades than the moon?
You aren’t sure and that doesn’t drive you crazy any more. Insomnia’s been a bitch but lately you sleep much better off than before. Complacency is a dangerous and tragic enemy always snipping at your heels, but V doesn’t make you feel that way. He could be anywhere, with his artist fingers strumming the neck of the next unsuspecting one-off, but he isn’t. He’s here, and he is now, and when you leave to text and stroke the redux of Evan and Eddy’s there won’t be a need for explanations. It will be the silent needs of your relationship, needing each other without a need to be exclusive. Simultaneously mad in love and loving madly whatever fire is ignited in a strangers eyes and touch. Two apostrophes far and hanging on each other, and the bodies that lay between are the sentence.
Him, the beginning. You, the end.
“Shut the window,” He mumbles beneath the pillow and his elbow.
“Mhm,” You say, but don’t.
Because the moonlight reminds you of someone else.