You Have To Smile To Say Her Name

I can see what Hemingway saw in Cuba.

Old Havana opened to me like the wet, stale parts of a pleasant dream you’ve been interrupted from. The people are nice enough to be kind but let you alone, Havana’s dilapidated but pristine architecture remains hauntingly beautiful, and what drunk can pass up top shelf rum for two dollars and fifty cents a shot? (Only 6 bucks for the bottle in every bodega outside the tourist traps.) A writer’s paradise nestled 110 miles shy from the great liberated bays of Florida.

Cuban sun hums the kind of heat that makes sex feel more like a pass time than a necessity of the body. The women are rather beautiful, decked in their humble but strapless dresses, skirts, and generic bootie shorts. Their skin a light mahogany, turned crisp as chocolate candied in barrels of sugar cane and caramel. All busy-bodied on with their ways to work, children, friends or other excitements. None of their eyes occupied that bored, detached, and conceited vanity so common in the gorge-ous types of Tinderellas; carting their full makeup and empty hearts up Amsterdam back home. And although they were not oblivious to their spark of specific intelligence we have a habit to dare call beauty, even the Cuban courtesan maintained a modesty and meekness in their character I’ve yet to see in any American demeanor.

But no temptress, addiction, or wile siren had ever made me more drunk with love than fair Dianysia.

Dianysia, hailing from the distant lands of the Antilles, ebony skin stirring like molten rum and cokes. When I first stared into those dark pools of milk and caramel we dare call eyes, a dark and maddening desire filled my heart and all extremities. Like burning alive, but on a smaller scale- my nerves tingled in a calm excitement and I become painfully aware of life. Sensitive to the slightest touch. When her mouth curved that methane smile I was called…no, pulled towards her uncontrollably, like a marionette by a string.

She was a waitress in a bar called Patchanka near Old Havana. I’d stopped only to rest my feet, but as I finished my drink a small band manifested itself near the entrance. They began to play a soft but quickly paced Cuban salsa, sharp and lively but to a calm and hazy melody. As I listened Dianysia came bursting from the bar counter, conjured from the bottled merlots and ambrosia lined along the shelf.

She had an energy and tenacity I immediately couldn’t keep myself from. I liked to watch her work, to see her briskly bouncing from one end of the shop to the other, writing furtively with a furrowed brow, or barking jokes and groans at customers or other staff. There was something so fun in her folly and playful in her unpleasant, and when a certain chord of a certain song saxed around us in a certain way, the dark image she presented would melt to swaying shoulders and whispered hymns. Quiet prayers and praise to songs I imagine we sung only for her.  I sensed some kind of history between her and the brass musician.

“You like the way he plays?” I pestered, nodding at the saxophone player swooning the local fans.

“Me gusta la musica, no los musicos.” She replied flatly, not bothering to look up from the order she was jotting.

“But without musicians there wouldn’t be any music,” I pressed. Annoyingly, I knew, but having a taste of sharp tongue I couldn’t resist getting another.

“Entonces solo me gusta las canciones de la playa y el mar.”

“Beaches and…rivers? Then it sounds like you prefer water, not music.” I said.

She let her pen down confidently, raised the veils of her dark brown eyes to glare at me combatively.

“Y tu? Porque te sientas solo en un lugar de companeors.”

“I like to have company, not companions.” I said. She laughed, a loud and raspy percussion I wouldn’t describe as a noise, but as an instrument or natural clamor. Like water rustling down a river, or thunder.

“Pareces que prefiere alcohol, no la compania.” She spat, and before I could respond, darted back towards the bar. Feeling the sting of being shunned, I took to the rum and drank with an added gusto to assuage my wounded pride.

Moderation is a myth to me. I can never kind of- I must always either be entirely or absolutely not. I’ve never bothered to take much care of myself because my body is not a temple. It hungers, rages, consumes. It swallows and devours everything like a fire. Not knowing self-control, a little lightened by the Antillean sun, and the quick but soft songs pulsing me along, I’d been near my sixth or seventh glass before I realized the sun and my sobriety had sunk so long ago.

Dianysia banged another glass of Santiago rum before my glassy eyes, smiling so wickedly and inviting. I was confused and attributed to my being drunk. Was she serving me the entire night? Hadn’t I tried to talk to her but found her not interested? Why was she so suddenly pleased at me now but not before?

“Me gusta tambien los lunaticos.” She said, laughing, Her raspy echoed in my chest over and over. With a twist she picked up a purse, I don’t know if it was hers, and danced out the bar counter and far away from Patchanka. And I watched her, still confused and a little drunk, but enjoying her all the while. She turned the corner of the entrance, my senses re-emerged and she was gone.

The saxophonist was standing across from me, a look of worry and warning in his empty eyes.

“She’s stubborn,” Was all he said.

“I like a girl that’s sure of herself.” I replied.

“Difficult. ”

“Well nothing good ever came easy.”

“Crazy.”

“I don’t get along well with sane people.”

“She’ll always go against you.”

“Who wants to be around people that only agree with you?”

He cooked his head as if he were staring at a rorschach, laughed a little insincerely then followed up with an honest smile that bordered on pity.

“That girl’s going to make you lonely.” He sighed. I finished off the glass of rum, but already I could feel sobriety coming for me like the sun.

“I know.” I said.

Revenge Forlorn [aka I Miss Laughing During Sex]

I could hear you laugh a thousand times
and never grow tired of it. Which, by the way,
has happened. That video we made
on that night when we did those things
we would d never share with anybody,
there was a moment before the tv turned on
and you tried to twirl and
look sexy in a way that
just didn’t happen.

That instant, I must have played back a thousand times.
Not for the sexy parts. We’re so far apart
I can’t ever even imagine you in that way
again. But at about 29.59 seconds in,
your face breaks into a laugh
over mine, and I make a face
I can’t ever remember making
ever again.

And that’s it, for me.
That’s how I miss you.
I think back to that time
we were naked and stupid
and so full of each other
that we didn’t care.

When I Said That I Would Never Forget You, I Meant It As A Threat

On rare occasion, I love being wired like a guy. Where at a glance and eyeful fuck I can forget women bite their nails or have bad dreams, and for a night or afternoon are fun and fresh as snow.

There are degrees of sex, and Sheila’s had a thoughtless and intimate excellence. She removed her top, threw it to the side with a careless confidence that left me awed. With the fluid wave of her bangled and slender wrist, she cast aside any remaining notion of neglect or lingering resentment between us. With the stroke of her warming touch and kiss it no longer mattered why-weren’t-you-there or never-called-me-back. Lust, although a primitive emotion, makes a lovely anesthetic.

Hesitance gone, caution numbed, I closed the breach between us and found her excitement waiting like an old friend. Our hands and lips, once so familiar, explored the whispered wants of each others skin once more. Silked and shuddering, we dissolved to a desire that was a devastation of man and woman, of what was expected or instilled in us. A thousand years of evolution torn asunder, become nothing to the nature Nature had adorned us in. The windows shut, the doors barred in- for a time the world had no place or say in anything, and in that freedom our instincts made demands that we surrendered to.

Her honey-darling skin was a temple that took me with open arms. She was a poem, a fire, a mountain in the distance that shook and filled me with a burning wander-lust. Such supple breast and forgiving lips, she accepted me entiretly with a hushed thrill and gasp that simmered as our bodies found a silent groove and rhythm.

I laid her across the mattress, her hair long and tangled like Medusa- the ancient hymns and sacrifices of the Greeks and Incas riddled along the veins of her skin like snakes. I ran my tongue along these secrets and found a magic I’d only read and felt no part of. At times and touch she folded under my caress and presented herself like a gift, waiting to be loved and intensively undone. Her passion came in tides and suddenly she would revolt, rise and take control. Eager and commanding, she left me powerless and quaking under the demand of her wild search for her fulfillment.

Our highs peaked, settled, then took wind and climbed much higher. We gave and took of one another until there was nothing left to be given. Consumed by consumption, a gentle tide came like an earthquake and swept our frenzy to exhaustion. And as we lay catching our breaths, I traced my love into a poem on her back in fingerprints.

“I’m quitting soon,” I said, and she took it to mean the cigarette.

“Good. You know I hate that it lingers.”

“Like my affection,” I said. But she didn’t move, scoff, or breathe.

“You’re so heavy,” she said finally. “I worry that I can’t keep up. That you’ll get bored eventually with someone like me. Some day you’ll up and leave, and you won’t look back. I know you don’t. You’ll leave one day like I’m not enough, like nothing ever is.”

They say there are times life presents us moments of greatness that define us. Where what we do will shape not just your life, but the world and those around you. In my bleeting heart I felt it to be one of those moments, and in that moment I was speechless.

“You’re terrifying,” she said.

I nodded and stared absently at the short distance between us. While the reality of one-and-only has always remained for me a distant implausability, for a touch and moment she was mine, if only for the night and orgasm. The night done, we picked up the fragments of ourselves scattered about the room like clothes. And despite the withhold we both know we’ll find ourselves here again, in a month or week or decade thereafter. Two torn souls tearing a room and each other for satisfaction.

The smoke may clear, but the dust, much like our hearts, never does quite settle.

Why Do We Fall Down, Bruce? (To Have Subtle Resentments and Character Flaws)

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.

Notes From Above Ground

Act I

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.

Act II

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.

“Thanks….Enilorac?”

Her laugh was magic.

Act III

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.

Epilogue

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.