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
I am a man out of time in the midtown atmosphere.
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.
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?
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.
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.”
She died on a Monday.
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.
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.
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.
Wood floors. Laptop. Brugal.
Ironing. Cat crying at the moon,
wishing better things
(are they for me???)
Wishing stars are (pipe dreams???)
for anyone who has a problem sleeping,
distracting from the actions I know
are coming in the morning.
Sounds. Sounds. Sounds.
Sounds, Sounds. Sounds.
Wake up faded of love.
Where am I oh yeah again
Brush teeth, a bowel movement and
cold shower. Because the goddamn
hot water isn’t working even
after I asked the super to FUCKING
take care of it.
She was gorgeous, in a terrible sort of way. Beautiful, but fully aware of it while pretending otherwise. She liked taking photographs of old brick buildings and vanilla lattes shaped with hearts in foam, and when she described herself, she used very obnoxious words like “honest” or “bibliophile.” A little confidence shy of another Instagram princess, her measured modesty was obvious and dishonest; it struck me as a very conscious and deliberate over-indulgence in the benefits her sex and carefully caricatured appearance afforded. A glow I know is worn and doesn’t grow from I-woke-up-like-this. And from the very beginning I didn’t trust her- I dislike anybody heartless enough to prey on our rare and kinder inclinations. Villains playing a great game of charades- usually insincere, sometimes a victim, but always a monarch in the pursuit of their own validation.
A kiss couldn’t contain me, I can’t be made still when my world is always rotating. Spinning on a spindle far as the bar can see, high as the stars orbiting Neptune on a lunar eclipse. Can’t call tonight quits so I’m proof-reading draft text messages I meant to send, trying to draw that fine line of flirting while running perfect circles around the moon.
“you don’t like Skylers mom”
“Am I that obvious?”
“no, but I can tell”
“What gave me away?”
He has honest eyes- two black marbles and red strings marinating in a pool of milk; soft and terrifying. Sometimes when he smiles his gaze will wince and flash the hot secret of what he really thinks; open windows that reveal a cold and sensitive man behind the blinds of polite social interractions. A long forehead full of forethought, with a strange canoo shaped scar bobbing down the river of his beard. He had a quality I couldn’t place but softly identified. A secret in his faded Caesar I had to unearth.
“im rlly good at reading people”
“Like a mystic? Forget Skylers mom, tell me the future, specifically in terms of lotto numbers.”
“venus is in mars and he’s not too crazy about pegging. your lucky number is 69”
“You kiss your mother with that mouth?”
“no but i do kiss yours”
“I’ve always wanted a step-momdad.”
You cant stop the earth from shaking, no matter how hard you hold onto it. Your best bet is to grab a friend and ride the tremors, hope he isn’t going to make the night any more than the natural disaster I was meant to be. A social inventory insist that I am something of a catch- a little jaded, maybe, but more like blood diamonds than single mothers at 45. Twenty something erucater reprobate, “waist hip proportionate” (whatever the fuck that means,) that doesn’t mind a night full of fancy clothes and jazz bars or McFlurrys in a beat up Ford Escape around midnight. I’m down to clown or play sophisticated, depending on where my mood is. So long as I don’t have to justify why I think everyone should recycle and wearing denim jeans with dress shoes is a sin.
“I can’t think of what to say so I’m going with a very hopeful and loaded ‘wyd’.”
“laundry, little brother baby sitting”
“How old is he? And what’s his favorite color?”
I should be home with a book or jaw so cut it leaves dimples along my waist and pillows. Where I lay my head is home, and lately I like resting to the thought of him. I wonder what kind of lover he would be, in the romantic sense. Classical maybe, holding open doors and keeping between myself and traffic. Like I were a pet or songbird to protect. Or is he rather renaissance, regarding me with an equality and respect of a fellow human being. Dutch dinners and gender neutral nuances, bland sweet talk that means well but borders on boring, lacking that playful sentimentality of a baby-please.
“I miss you.”
But that’s all I ever think about. Even in my raunchiest dreamy recluse I can never get to the actual sex part. My fantasies are underwhelming as the movies are- I only care about everything leading up to the moment before my mind fades to black and I’m suddenly out of breath or boredly staring at the ceiling from my pillow.
“Saturday, you and me and a dinner. You can talk about your baby brother and that stupid movie with Kate Blanched that you like. I’ll wear the shirt you said doesn’t make me look so ugly and you’ll make my face say something my mouth wasn’t ready to. It’ll be fun! Or not, and awkward. But whatever it is, I need it to be something more than what we are.”
Read on 1/18/2018
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.
You can tell a lot about a person by the way they react to tragedy. Whenever the bus is running late, or I lose my favorite lighter, or even when my uncle died, my immediate reaction is always just to laugh. There’s no use crying over spilled emotions, and I can never see the point in moping. There’s a strength in finding your own weakness, in owning it to the point the misery of the world turns to this awful joke. My manic borders on hysteria, because sadness is unsure of itself and fumbling. But madness, madness knows its own shape.
Last year I was enamored with an enthusiast just as abhorous as I was. Met her one seedy morning when I was wandering Jerome, high off fumes and fast tracking towards a hangover. It’s funny how books and songs make meeting people seem so legendary. That there’s this instinct or impulse so powerful that neither of them could deny. Chemistry or fuck if I know at first sight. But with Brenda it was different.
I was sitting on the building stool because my feet were killing me. I left my apartment for…something, I forget. More drinks, maybe, but definitely not coffee and a donut. Then I liked the way a street looked, how the moonlight kind of shimmered in the grey tarp of the sidewalk, and the road curved so naturally I wished it was still snowing so I could slide down. Next thing I knew the sun was out and I had only a vague idea of where I was.
I’m so easily sidetracked like that. All it takes is a warm feeling and I end up chasing the vague, a stray dog that catches up to the car but doesn’t know what to do with it.
So I was sitting on the stool when she came outside and lit a cigarette. I asked her for a light, and then…that’s it. We just started talking. Like it was something we’d always done. Not about the weather, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was something just as unremarkable. I only remember mentioning how much it sucks to be a smoker in the winter, and that she looked simultaneously beautiful and like she just washed up from the river with the way her hair looked. A wet, tangled mess, the word Juicy printed on her pants in bold white letters, and wearing sandals with socks on. Which, even in the winter season, I think are reasonable grounds for public stoning.
A first impression full of instant red flags – and yet, for whatever reason, we got along enough to want breakfast and share some tenderness with each other.
She had eggs with a side of soup, which to this day I still find baffling.
“Now it’s like ramen,” she said. “Dominican style.”
“We have a word for that in my language.” I said.
I asked for a beer with my egg brulee and she couldn’t stop laughing. Said she never met somebody that was so bourgeois and trashy at the same time. The curly headed kid with tired eyes and a fuck-it face didn’t mind when I snuck two coronas to our table, courtesy of the deli next door. He only asked we take them with us before we left, and even recommended some delicate drug spots to Brenda where the service is superb.
It was the start of an awful entree our respective annihilations and self-detriments. She took me back to her apartment so she could shower, and I spent the better part of an hour nosily numbing across all the pictures on her dresser, because the rest of the space was absolutely bare. No welcome mat, no mirror, no posters on the wall and one single brown leather loveseat that made the room feel larger than it should be.
When i asked about the pictures, she said they were friends. All of them, each with an elaborate backstory. There was Karen that was pregnant and made her the curtains draped across the window. Theo was a real lazy prick, but when it came down to it, he was the only one who came when…mumbles, something about “That asshole.”
She should have emerged from the shower like a Goddess, steam succulent behind her, but all I saw was a girl in a towel over-excited about the marijuana we were on the way to buy.
One Uber cab and draft beer later, we went to the address, halfway between St. Nicholas and Wadsworth. Six flights upstairs where one floor was full of empty, and the next red cups decked along the window sill, and third where even stranger still, a couple swayed by the doorway to an empty house. I saw them, so together in ther alone, a goodbye or hello that felt so unbelievably important. Her back to us and his huddled in her neck, to the point I made sense of “the beast with two backs.” No words, sighs, or moans. Only a unity, some creature impossible to tear from itself. Avoiding eye contact and the obvious we walked past with heads down, never said a word after, as if we hadn’t witnessed something beautiful.
She smoked and I drank. The lights were off and the candles on the window sill turned my apartment into a hiding. Nothing could touch us in this dark island-We were isolated from every single demand and danger beyond the pains. Six degrees of separation from the neighbors and ourselves- a place where hurt doesn’t bother to look- the quiet of two people turning their back against the world.