To Rank The Effort Above The Prize May Be Called Love (aka You Don’t Always Get Brownie Points For Trying)

My mother used to always warn me about people and their gossip. Before she died I’d get so tired of her telling me not to trust people, waning from one story to the next on friends and family that committed horrible atrocities for the sake of their self interest. Worn and bent over a rocking chair, four red checkered playing cards in her hand as we played Casino. Those are my fondest memories of her, before she died. A time when she spilt her wisdom over diamond nines and clubbed jacks. Always hiding an ace around her bed gown for an extra point I never counted.

“They’re animals,” She would say. “Will eat you alive if you give let them. Before we had to fight for food, now we fight for work. They used to kill you with their hands, now they do it with words. Nothing but хуйло́.”

Something about Casino brought out the worst and best of her. I think the game reminded her of earlier times, and she talked so freely and removed from now that she wouldn’t mention my gambling or weed addictions. I made 18 points last hand, she was one spade short of 21. A long sigh leaked from her lips as her wrinkled hands took up the table to shuffle.

“But we have to love them anyway, I guess.” Words I nodded and said goodnight to, not knowing they were her last.

But they remained with me, and I thought of them constantly whenever work became something more than a job. In 2016 I was caught between the animals and a hard place thanks to the dangerous and heartless parfait of teachers in a charter school.

It was called The Faculties Wall. Nobody knew when or how it started, but it was maintained for years as a well kept secret and dishonored tradition. Located in the staff restroom of the fourth floor, securely tucked away from student eyes, hidden behind a loose and shoddy ceramic wall tile in the third stall. Fifth tile up from the toilet handle, perpendicular to the coat hanger of the stall- here you would find a list of names, impressively almost alphabetized,  of teachers and what others thought of them in an old wooden plank. Written in a thin black marker, kept scouts honor on the ceiling tile, with a precise and poignant naming convention. A name, an underline, and a series of adjectives would follow. A simple but effective way to wound somebody, to see the dark thoughts of the mob make a grocery list of all your faults.

“What’s it say for Karen?” I asked.

“Snob. Princess. Stank.” Matthew replied.

“Well it isn’t wrong, I guess.”

“Somebody needs to give that stick up her ass a little twist.” He said. “Then take it out. Then put it back in again. Then take it out. Then put-”

“Yours is probably pretty harmless,” I interrupted, because otherwise the loop would be endless. “Since everyone thinks you’re some prince.”

“I did get one Perv. A few Asshole’s. Two or three somethings about being cocky.”

“I’m so happy for you,” I replied dryly.

“Know what would make me happy? Putting it in Karen’s cooterrrrrrrrrrrr”

“You’re aware shes pregnant.”

“And are you aware that can’t happen twice at the same time.”

The Faculties Wall- an outlet for the adults to finally act as cruel as school children, anonymously and as deprived as chat rooms. But worse, somehow. Internet bullying can all seem the same. They’re just digitized letters. But a hand written Douchebag has something terribly intimate about it. The slant of the d, dashing of the i. it makes it much more personal than some 13 year old having a field day in the YouTube comments.

“You still haven’t checked yours huh?”

“I’m not interested.”

“Good for you man. Way to take the high road so the rest of us dont have to. Now I can keep using this as an excuse to just insult you. Like I personally would never have called you frumpy.”

“Shouldn’t you be working on whatever that is?” I asked, waving generally at the copier.

“Fucking finals week is killing me,” He said, reaching in his pocket for a portabalized bottle of aspirin. He popped one with a swig of mineral water, and added, “But not as much as Karen’s-….”

I didn’t care what anyone thought about me. I was more curious of what they thought of each other. Karen wasn’t all bad behind her resting bitch face. Her husband was this stubby and horrible looking Irish kid, so I knew she wasn’t as superficial as everyone thought. Matthews women mania was a well guarded secret. To everyone else he was just the funny man, and I knew all about his 4 episodes of depression and mild pill addiction. Jessie was the last of four, only one to go to college, the prodigal child. Wanting to make her family proud but side-lining her desires to go back to school and be a social worker.

I liked to know these things as a sort of social empathy.  Like how watching someone yawn almost makes you want to do it as well. The Faculties Wall was a passive interest, like boxing, or passing car accidents on the highway. But I couldn’t bare to look myself. To put on the gloves I knew full well that I wouldn’t be able resist and take whatever I saw scribbled too personally. And not knowing where it was from, I’d place a wall to my back and turn everyone into an enemy.

“And hey man, I know I usually joke about this stuff but this time its serious with the Tee Eff Dubbs.”

“I don’t care if my shirt is wrinkled.”

“It totally is, but this is not about that. Somebody signed their name on the The Faculties Wall. A major no no.”

“So?”

“It’s got us Tee Eff Dubbers talking. That’s some bold shit to do man.”

“Basically saying they don’t care who knows they feel that way. I get it.”

“Might bring us some heat. I can’t believe Jessie would do that.”

“…to who?” I asked, already knowing.

Matthew placed a cold hand on my shoulder.

“It is so much more worse than frumpy.”

——————————————————————————————————————-

The mind is a terrible muscle. Unreliable, prone to forget or exaggeration. It plays tricks and can’t be trusted to even decide if a dress is blue or not. For the weeks that followed, mine played a terrible game against itself. A Daredevil sort of hyper-awareness overcame my senses with every interaction I had with Jessie. I felt lingering eyes sometimes where there were none, as if other staff members were waiting for some eruption or subtle gesture. Some tell to discover the way Jessie truly felt about me under the nuance of office politeness.

That moment never came, I don’t think, but I began to treat Jessie the way the instinct of the healthy treat the sick – kindly, but over-protectively and from a distance. I went so far as to change our bi-weekly meeting to only once, and if possible, I would have had that interaction over dixie cups or a recording device. Before then, I had little to think or say about her. She was not outstanding or a terribly awful receptionist. She was just all right, bland in all the right places that make for terrible conversation and an excellent first line for the waves and waves of parents that came in on a daily.

Three weeks had past since Matthew shared the news, and I was on the verge of forgetting it altogether.

“I don’t know how you play nice with someone like that,” Shi said. Shilynn was a parent, my confidant and one of the few people who I sincerely enjoyed. Five minutes with Shi and you would learn her nickname is an antonym, as she was anything but. Loud, honest, playful and forward. Gorgeously stacked six feet high with hoop earrings and a smile that almost made me as manic as Matthew.

“Don’t tell me you know about the wall too,” I asked. And Shi only made a face with a sardonic and closed lip Mmm-Hmph.

“I haven’t seen it yet. But I’ve heard.” Shi shot me a quizzed look, shaking her head with that brilliant and toothy smile.

“That’s what I love about you Noel. Don’t give a shit about what other people have to say, all about your business. Keep that focus on Finals Week baby.”

The copy machine roared softly in the background, and from the distance I could see two teachers talking laxly in loud whispers. Was it about me? I couldn’t tell. They never looked my way but gave shamed nods and gestures that made me think it was. The way you close your eyes on a train and can swear someone is looking at you, but when you open them, there’s nobody there.

“But you need to check that girl. And don’t even stress,” She clicked, placing a warm hand against my cheek. “I think you look cute frumpy.”
————————————–
The mind is a terrible machine. Always functioning, always turning, even in sleep. I started to have awful dreams. An auditorium full of people I didn’t recognize. Their faces blurred by the spotlight as I stood by the curtain, watching their shapes shift and jiggle in Ooh’s and Aah’s as Jessie stood speaking angrily into the microphone on the stage. I couldn’t understand what she was saying, but I knew it was about me. Or did I merely think it? Dreams are funny that way. Even what you’re not sure of tends to be the gist of it. It’s all your imagination – there is no stage, no crowd, no curtain, no Jessie. It was only my own subconscious rebelling against my self esteem.

At one point, Jessie pointed, and a hundred dark shapes jerked to look at me. A sea of black silhouettes staring mercilessly without eyes. And when I thought to run or stand out for myself – the alarm clock jerked me to my bedroom. No stage, no crowd, no curtain or Jessie. Just a mattress and a cat whining for his feed.

That morning I moved purposefully straight to the fourth floor staff bathroom. Something in my expression must have gave me away, because passing Matthew up the staircase he only winced and muttered some nonsense along the lines of I-Knew-You’d-Break. I hung my satchel in the door, third stall. Stood on the slippery sheen of the porcelain toilet, nearly breaking my neck for the pen faithfully kept in the ceiling. I remember the way it felt so different from the others I’ve held. A bit old and watery from years of wear, but powerful. How many hands had gripped this instrument only to gripe their grievances onto a wooden board. How much history of hate was confined into a sharpie, made boringly in some factory by some machine and people with their own sighs and Faculties Wall.

I stared into the ceramic tile, fifth up from the toilet handle, perpendicular to the stall coat rack. I felt an odd touch of destiny that moment, as if I was taking my life and name back from the phantoms behind the wall. But there was a hesitance. I was afraid, I think, or maybe something more. Anger was what anchored me that entire car ride. It was all I could think about past every exit, speeding towards reaching this place I knew, deep down, I never wanted to be a part of. There was a sweat in my palm as I gripped the marker, and I consciously felt myself at a crossroad. Behind the tile, the curtain, was Matthew and Jessie, and even Shi. Two thoughtless movements and I’d be plunged behind the ugly truth behind How-Was-Your-Weekend, weak weather whatever’s and a void of restraint the social contract binds us to.

I took a deep breath.
——————————————————————–

They say distance makes the heart grow fonder, but I don’t think they’ve ever heard of abandonment.  Jessie was drowning, as far as I could tell because Finals Week is a killer. My third year of it caused some pre-planning I neglected to include her with. There aren’t enough hours in the day, so the trick is to come in an hour earlier when nobody is here and focus on those intricate but easy pieces that need to be done. Bubbling spreadsheets, preparing envelopes. Easy stuff that gets difficult once the rush of parents hits you.

“Goodnight Jessie,” I said on my way out. “Don’t let the rain catch you.”

“Thanks,” Jessie groaned behind a stack of paperwork. Hunched, tired eyes resisting the allure of her cell phone vibrating wildly on the counter.

I stood at the door for a second and thunder cracked. A storm was brewing outside, and a really brilliant one. I’ve always loved rainy and cloudy days. The sun bothers me being so obnoxious and glaring. Staring, demanding to be observed or enjoyed in some lackluster restaurant with outside awnings. Gloomy days fits everyone else in my default mood, and it added to the haggrid state I saw Jessie in. Defenseless, piled behind a desk job not feeding her interest. Welded to the sun without an ounce of strength to call and register for classes next semester.  Doomed to the high life of 9 to 5, no recourse except a wooden board on the third floor of the building.

“Do you want help?” I asked, flatly. Her tired eyes contorted to an emotion I couldn’t place, but she didn’t respond.

I placed my satchel on an empty chair and took a stack of papers. Made some joke about how this work was even bigger than Karen’s belly. Jessie laughed, or at least pretended to, and we twiddled through hours of end-of-day deliverables with nothing but placid politeness. The only highlight was a picture of her mom, decked glamorously in a bathrobe throwing a piece sign in a rocking chair. Cigarette pack on her bedside and a deck of cards half opened. A sweet looking old thing ancient as the highways and just as racist.

“She’s cute,” I said, politely. “You have her eyes.”

“She wants me to go back to school, but right now I just can’t because-” Jessie stopped, some subconscious halt to whatever was about spill a terrible honesty.

“You should go back to school,” I said. “Or you should stay here and work. You’re good at either, but nobody wants to be a receptionist forever. Eventually you’ll get tired of this place, because you’ll ask What-If? And that kind of hate festers. It turns you to an animal, and angry, and just…I don’t know. It’s terrible. You start to look at everything around you as a sort of resentment. Like it’s their fault you aren’t where you want to be. Matthew didn’t plan to be a music teacher, he wanted to be a rock star. He tried for years, and he landed here. Which is great, I guess, and is he happy? I think so. Maybe. But more than anything I think he tried his best, and even if this isn’t what he wanted, he’s okay with it, because he pursued his dream.”

Jessie stared into her phone screen, nodding absently. She rolled up her sleeveless blouse, taking the rest of my Finals Week stack into her own.

“Thanks, I’ll take care of the rest,” She said. The drip of rain was deafening outside. A long and soaking bus ride my reward.

I gathered my things and said goodnight, paused at the double doors, wanting and wishing to say more, but unable to make available what words to say.

“By the way,” Jessie chimed. “You shouldn’t wear blue, it makes you look frumpy.”

I nodded and laughed, a little too honestly, and walked wrinkled into the rain.

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I Only Give Up My Seat To The Elderly If There’s A Cute Girl Nearby (aka The Height of Injustice Is To Seem Just Without Being So)

Matthew meandered through the office full of a fools intention, playing at conversation and ‘none-the-wiser’ to his demeanor. The music teacher; relax, cool and making faces with a tongue in cheek, hovering with a cup of Starbucks green tea and handing out rehearsed dad jokes to anyone willing to listen. A soft and puffy beard behind two warm and sun-strained eyes, a smile wide and duplicated as the photocopies he came to make but wasn’t minding or paying attention to.

The copier tends to crash and there’s signs all around it – asking everybody to please be mindful of the environment and not leave papers jammed or unattended.

“I don’t live by the rules, the rules live by me!” He said, pretending to throw something on the floor before picking it up a minute after.

That Matthew, so carefree. So whimsical. He liked to purposefully be distracting no matter how focused you were on spreadsheets. The company clown quite proud to make the mood a little lighter, the type of guy that always has something sly to say, a compliment or awkward comment that was boring as hell but work appropriate. Loaded, in a sense, because if you didn’t nod or pretend to laugh at all his jolly empty sentences, well then, What-The-Heck’s-Your-Problem-Grinch, It-Isn’t-Even-Christmas.

(I swear to God, his words, not mine.)

“Anybody want to hear a joke about a piece of paper?” Matthew’s low baritone donged out loud, to no one in particular.
“Sure,” Jessica dinged, ignoring the loud ring of the office telephone.
“Never mind, it’s tearable.”

Everybody groaned and somebody sucked their teeth. Matthew was finger-pistoling the air and I was glaring out the window, looking for some rope and the highest tree. The copier made a screech, three beeps and a high pitched Danger Will Robinson kind of tone. There’s a jam, that sound is unmistakable. We’ve heard it a million times but somehow it goes unnoticed.

“Thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all week, be sure to tip your waitresses.” Matthew Bogart-ed across the office like a stage, blew his fingers and put them in his ripped jeans like holster. Cocky, but in a fun way.

Office glee is a cancer, I think, but the necessary kind. People need to feel comfortable at work, and while I can’t relate, I can understand that. The world would be a dark place if everyone had my “Let’s just get this done well so we can all go home,” mentality. But the act of half-assed trivialities, conversation solely for the sake of pretending to have a good time, has a Facebook/Instagram quality that I cannot abide by. An air of ‘Things-Couldn’t-Be-Better!’ when they really could be. The lies we try at exes that call back when Winter melts and they wander back home with tails between their legs. Not because they miss us, but because they miss what is familiar. They miss what is comfortable.

But sometimes there is no solace. Occasionally things just suck, and the glass doesn’t exist, let alone be half full. Bottom line – I don’t trust a somebody who doesn’t have a dark side. That endless happiness is either arrogant, naively misplaced, or a colossal facade worn socially well. Typically the third. They’re after something- a bias I admit is bordering on paranoia, but I can’t resist or shake. And if anybody asks me how my day was, I will always answer- Why?

“Jessica gets it. What’s up with your cereal today Grinchmas?”
“Nothing,” I replied. “Weird dream last night, has me a little out of it.”
“Oh,” Matthew replied, shoulders on the verge of moon-walking back outside from where I would ground him.

“Dreamt I was here at work,” I pressed, before he had the chance to leave. “Trying to find a piece of loose leaf paper, but each one I took from notebooks or the copier had stuff written on it. It always looked important so I’d leave it and look elsewhere. And I remember, there was a hippo in the lunch room which was really weird now that I think about it, but at the time felt pretty normal. And when I almost had a baby about it, thought about asking why is there wildlife on the premise, you said to me, Hey-Don’t-Worry-About-It-Grinchmas, and did that pistol thing you always do. Then my alarm went off and I woke up feeling pretty exhausted, because I woke up from work…to go to work? So it feels like I’ve been here for like two days straight. Isn’t that weird?”

“Sure bud,” Matthew replied, casually cooling his Earl Grey. Unsure of what to say or how to work in a work appropriate response.

And That’s the thing about the dad jokes; they don’t mean much except filling silence for the sake of it. It’s pretending at friendly without ever having to actually be it. Practiced and monotonous antics, the kind the worst of guys can learn the rhythm and vocabulary to. Life is full of landmines, and some people learn to practice office friendly as a type of Minesweeper with cheat codes.

To hop and skip across coming across like an asshole, but being one.

“You ever have weird dreams like that?” I asked.
“I think so, but gotta go, class is starting.” He said, darting.

Jessica settled into her Facebook, everyone else starts banging onto their keyboards. Trying to drown out the loud and endless rounds of beeping from the copier. Words glaring from a Lanier, music stanzas dripping from the feed.

JAM – SERVICE NECESSRY.

 

Landmines Are Inherently Self Destructive (So Watch Your Step Around Me)

A breath full of ash that reeks of rum and cigarette butts all pointed the same direction. I don’t know the way home, and if I did, I’d follow the opposite road like a north star. The night is young and cruel as school children- crashing continuously against the dawn, trying desperately to be Erebus, the who will woo and suffuse the night.

I am intimately familiar with the immature inability to count your losses and call it quits. Hope’s kind of a dick that way, a flame of stubborn faith that burns so bright so long as the sky is navy blue. Every lark is actually sprinting towards an escape that doesn’t exist, and I wish I could have told myself back then, this obvious truth I was to stupid to realize or admit: that really, the day never ends, it only goes away for a while. And no matter how fast you run, eventually, the morning and all her responsibilities will catch up to you.

It’s the four o’ clock crowd loud and happy hour just kicking off, pleasant as a post 9 to 5 allows you to be. Yuppie caustic kindness, Can-You-Believe’s echoing down seventh avenue. Hardly the place to start a Monday bender, but I’d be damned if I let some calendar decide if the weekend was over or not.

They don’t have Heineken but I’m recommended something called “beer blanc,” by a casually well dressed gauge wearing douchebag. He’s wearing a hat indoors and what I can only assume is a flavor t-shirt whose irony is lost only on me.

“No thanks, just a double shot of Jack then,” I said.
“Is Evan Williams okay?” He asks, already pouring the damn thing.

I should have gone home then, but being surrounded by noise helps me focus. Silence is too distracting. Inevitably my mind starts to fill the gaps, and the thoughts that inhabit me are grotesque and overcrowded. A royal rumble of awful notions I need to bury in absent-minded conversations  or else be consumed by them.

“What’s that blanc thing you recommended?” I asked, and Douchebags eyes darted sideways, halfway to a roll.
“It’s a milk stout,” He droned, wanting out but not pouring fast enough to.
“I’m sorry what?”
“A milk stout.”
“Beer? And milk? That’s gross. What if I’m lactose?”
“Then you shouldn’t have had a Guinness.” He said, a tastefully and casually bored retort I simultaneously loathed and admired too much to take personal. Because I had a Guinness some hour earlier, and the idiot succeeded in making me feel quite stupid, enough to not even bother Wiki-ing if he was right. (Because he was.)

Hard cut, five hours later- the place has become a loose tie affair, full of tastefully popped derrieres and half baked conversation. Bars are a miracle, let me tell you. Nobody really feels like friends but nobody wants to drink alone, so they meander to where the wood is dark, the space is small, all for the sake of feigning company. And I’m with them, terribly, still trying to make friends with gauged Douchebag.

But by now the musics too loud and he can casually wave whatever I try to investigate into the milk and beer dichotomy. There’s darlings out in tube tops and muscle tee’s the hour finds appealing. A pretty little thing called Esmeralda parks beside me, the beautiful tired eyed of a forty something trying to make the best out of what she spent on a baby sitter.

“Your eyes” She says. “Are so sad.”
“Because they’ve been waiting to look at you.”

It’s not a good joke, but she laughs, strokes my hand and offers me a drink. I look at her, cute, veins of her crows feet I’m reading like palms of possibilities. I like the simplicity, the lull of alcohol that’s made us get along so lovely. Her smile so easy and my faux confidence almost bordering on real. She is an option, an alternative to the dark and lonely road. All it would take is a yes to tomorrow, a letting go of yesterday. To take her hand in mind and measure the hum of her pulse and cherry lips against my own.

“So what do you want?” She asks, eyes lean and suggestive. I felt the warmth of her look, the gentle in the wordless caress. Elevator eyes, meaning all I had to do was play it cool and avoid any touchy subjects like religion, politics, or anything stupid as thoughtful. Something light, like what she likes to do on the weekends and favorite Youtube videos. We could go somewhere after, I could tell by the way our knees touched and hands found each other.

So I pointed to the guy in gauges.

“Tell him I want a Guinness.”

Hardly A Harlequin (aka I’m Casper, The Friendly Ghost’n)

Honesty is empty, like pouring a glass of wine into a shot. Glass breaks the same way night does – beautifully, at first, but come morning what’s jagged and terrible stabs into view. “I like you,” Quotes and women you pretend weren’t ever an occurrence as you gracefully stutter awake to the alarm clock. 5 : 00 A M . Man, those red lines glaring could make anyone think they were walking towards a death sentence.

But not you.

The window is ajar in the bathroom, and as your shower the feint aroma of 7th grade reminds you of cafeterias and handball courts you haven’t visited in ages. Nostalgia (hyphen) catalyzed by the way the air felt September 3rd. when you were thirteen with nothing but snug tees and a Reddit account you barely visited, acknowledging that never went beyond an appreciation of memes. Hashtag #I-Like-This-If-You-Like-Me, making friends against your belt that don’t end well.

But you’re bored and he’s cute.

Long drives and short sighs trying to trigger where the lust and listless began. The gorgeous eyes that gorge us guys drifting to Elysium (and molly if he’s down to party, so long as he’s paying for that too.) Ooh, never mind. It’s late and I have to-

Good night.

 

Sex and Love Addicts Annonymous – Adriana (Patchanka 03.23.18)

We drink and kiss and
cuss and smoke. Talk about
our problems like
distant cousins we haven’t seen
in a while. Then we fuck, but
not like its a big deal.

Casually, after a really good song
or way the sunlight makes
our skin sing after a beer.
Over covers and offhand,
broad daylight against our
sweaty backs.

We inhabit each other like
its something we’ve always done,
a quiet that is too comfortable
to have only happened once
a lifetime. Bandits hiding
in a safehouse with the score
we’ve stolen – laughing, spending
all that happiness.

What A Time To Pretend To Be Alive (Mess Hall 04.03.18)

Seltzer and a glass of pinot noir
Not particularly my type of crowd, the bar
counters too clean and everyone looks ready
for a job interview. Radio playing out
whatever’s clawed its way to the top 100.
Black and white framed photos lining up the freshly
polished walls, a decor that demands to be Instagrammed.
Minimalist, in design, and character.

I can tell nobody has ever had a heartache here,
there are no cuts on the wood or graffiti in
the bathroom. Debased to a beat and parroting lyrics
that won’t mean a thing to me in the morning.
A polished purgatory, full of things
but empty, sterile, a place of transitioning before
going where you’re supposed to. Like a doctors waiting
room, or an ex girlfriends house.

Hardly the place to start a Wednesday bender,
but it was worth a shot.

It’s the four o’ clock crowd loud in happy hour
just kicking off, pleasant as post 9 to 5 allows
you to be. Caustic kindness. Can-You-Believe’s echoing
down seventh avenue,Karen’s talking candid about what
that asshole Jonathan did. The conversation feels
malconstructed and fragile in the air. Soft, stained,
and glassed- forced. Saying something while not saying
anything at all like Good Morning or an I-Miss-You text.

Bald guys in bold suits guffawing at something
that wasn’t funny, ironic hoop earrings and a terrible
clinking of boots. Old men shuffling. Yuppies struggling
to be interesting. Twelve dollar margaritas, fifty buck
belts from Barney’s, no ash trays outside because nobody smokes
(they vape.)

I am a man out of time in the midtown atmosphere.

I Want To Take You To An Alley And Do A Four Letter Word (Love)

I-just-want-to-be-home doesn’t mean much until it’s 5 AM and I’m skinless once again.

My baby doesn’t mind the perfume when I’m huff and steaming of cigar smoke somebody else’s scent. She kisses me like it were something funny, laughs at the haste on my tongue like it was a joke. Keeps me hanging in her arms loaded and waiting like a punch line, when the parents are asleep but what’s fifteen minutes downstairs.

My eyes and mind are on Dianysia, thick and bubble with a quench to make your ends go: POP.

But she’s gone home with flies and I’m still hungry as the wolf for Elis and her soft purrs. Soare cu dinti as the Romans say, but you never know how wet it is until you get inside.

“You taste like a strip club,” Elis says smiling.

“Couldn’t be. I’m Catholic.” I said dimming.

She laughs like it were something funny and the tongue on her taste is ruinous. I’ve got blues black enough to make the moon go silent, stars stark as the amber gloss on her faded pajama top and black nylons stretched so far they’ve turned to gray. Dark hearts sea-saw’d in the playground of post open-relationship affections, one swing and a slide swiped right on a lark to hands fumbling for meaning. Prayer made easy. All it takes is a good intention and bedroom to make a sin, all we’ll awake to is an unthought out alley, thick in sweat and brownstone brick kisses. Another sweet nothing visit made elicitly PG13.

Soare cu dinti as the Romans say, but you never know how wet it is until you get inside.

“There,” she hums, nails digging at my neck. “Right there.”

“Where,” I drum. “Tell me where,”

She isn’t wearing panties, just cut-off jeans and a weak hurt. Neither was Dianysia. Brown like the dawn and burning honest as a truth left unread on a text message. A  touch that was terrifically terrible, weak and wishing, desperately searching and honorably hungry. Hands looking for something neither of us could find. Whispers that she’s mine while the sun is rising to make us human.

And then it started raining.

I Told A Witch Doctor I Was In Love With You. And Then The Witch Doctor, He Told Me What To Do, He Said {get over it}

Tonight I’ve got an appetite for applying love songs to someone it doesn’t belong.

I’m only Marlboro Red-ing when I’m heavy into missing you at 2 in the morning. People are disposable, and I overlook them like songs I used to love and skip without a thought when they come up on a playlist.Contingent on the inevitable, when I can tell something is close to its ending I can’t help looking elsewhere. Skimming to the back page of a boring book, always opening another beer before I’ve even finished the last one. It isn’t wasteful, but a muscle memory that makes me tentative of what’s ahead. Admitting an early defeat and preparing for the next one. Head full of grays and a heart full of yesterday. The feelings that live inside me are cannibals, constantly feeding off of one another.

Trying to decipher them is an exercise in futility, like second marriages, or microwaving French fries. You’re just setting yourself up for disappointment.

But I go through the motions. Hop on a midnight train to South Houston on nothing but a buzz and Metrocard. On a road to nowhere and baby I’m in a rush, to Coralines, to the bar you kind of liked and where I wander into when the mood of you strikes and hits too hard to stay home. Sometimes I haunt where we had a life like a specter, and the way I see it, you can take your goddamn love, but I’m keeping the memories (and the dog.)

I need someone to blame it on anyway.

I love this place now, Coralines, even if the music is shit and the drinks are watered down. The walls are crumbling and the floor is always dingy, but I love this place, because it’s where I loved you, once. I love this place and all the personal secrets it holds. The stool you slipped and fell off of when we first met, the ash trays graffitied in ashes and name-tags we swore we would add our names to but never did. The corner table where we held each other as if it were the only thing keeping us from falling into the crowd or sky. Where we fell so deep into each other. Each half emptied beer can and wilted counter flower is a display case in my own personal museum of one of the happiest moments in my life.

And don’t get me wrong: this is not some all or nothing confession/attempt to win you back. There is no recovering from where we’ve been, no going back since what we’ve done to each other. But I like having somewhere so loud with joy, somewhere I can come to forget the now and slip into yesterday without needing the bottle. You always said I drank too much, not to forget, but to remember.

I can have this and not want to have you back, can’t I?

Sorry I’m Not Sorry, But Genuinely. (aka Room 4201)

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.

“Pedophile.”

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.”

“I know.”

She died on a Monday.

Be Kind To Others, For This World Is A Loan To Be Repaid (But Also Could You Just Leave Me Alone Sometimes? Thanks.)

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.

Omaha Hold ’em (While You Still Can) aka V-Day Reveries

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.

Jeja

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.