“Do you know what poisons cows?” He said.
A plastic bag rustled between the trees and three children playing skip-the-cracks across the sidewalk. There was a fruit cart stand, so small and undefinable on that little corner of East Side New York, selling green and purple grapes by the pound without the seeds. Bananas bagged in bushels and boxes full of strawberry grays. Take your pick of processed shit organically packed in neat elastic little cartons. Fresh off the Nope.
There was a fruit cart stand, so small on that little corner of New York. Hungry hands lined and ashy, taking their turn turning fruit ripe enough to make the best off a dollar bargain. Used napkins, coffee cups, chewed up gum blooming petals of thick black sinew between ceramic oaks and mulberry shrubs. An addict waltzed between the crowd, unsteady toward Elysium, to the rhythm of his poison drum – bleary eyed, bent, and grinning. I watched a plastic bag settle on the flora of a steel lamp post while three children played skip-the-cracks on the edge of coming traffic.
There was a fruit cart standing on a corner of New York because nothing ever grows here.
“What?” I asked.
Mingo shifted his weight against his cane and I heard a thousand bones groan and adjust to his new lurch. We were leaning on concrete slabs edged enough to take a seat in, smoking ourselves dry to the bother of that corner deli. The usual suspects. They hated us but we paid our cover, two coffees and a roll with butter, one extra butter and the other toasted,
He measured his cigar while I wiled away my third cigarette that morning, and the lively grey sunstrain of his eyes glint with the patience of decaying trees. Wise and old, or old and wise. I couldn’t tell.
“The cow. You know what poisons them?” Mingo repeated calmly. I shook my head saying I didn’t.
“Esperanza, es una planta. They eat it,” he ran his index finger along his neck, a universal sign difficult to misinterpret, clicked his teeth and the little calf was done.
It began to rain and three children scrambled under the safe pan of an awning. A man leaned against a bus stop map gritting his teeth to the grim blue tint of a text message. He sucked his teeth before closing the phone, his hot mood sizzling in soft hummed cusses; sparks against the drops of heaven crackling between us. The grey clouds gave way to a dark and hazy yolked sun, the children ran and the bust stop groaned. Mingo creaks and the moment is over easy.
“Why do they eat it,” I asked. “If it’s poison.”
And Mingo shrugged.
Esperanza is a flower, bright and beautiful with yellow petals. And Esperanza is also hope, just as bright and ruinous. I couldn’t decide which killed them first, the toxins or definition.
“I killed somebody once,” Mingo said unexpectedly. “Coz’ of a woman.” He was calm, not sad nor entirely delighted. Not resentful or proud, but with the air of a man that’s lived and in living was reflective.
I couldn’t think of what to say and a car chuckled down the road.
“Do you having a girl?”
Down the block a gilded goddesses hips swayed, and she reminded me of a girl I reminded myself to forget. Gray eyed and somber lip’d, the kind of face easy to compliment and hard to misremember. I was staring and I didn’t care, and the longer I dared the sooner I realized that familiar was just wistful thinking. She didn’t look anything like her. The sighs were all wrong. She didn’t have the unhappiness riddled along her creases, she didn’t hold me like a melody at the slight of her hand or fuzzy forearm. She passed us without a crass look despite lingering stares.
But she did look a lot like her when she was walking away.
“Yeah,” I said to Mingo. I heard his head nod solemnly by the sound of his neck creaking.
“Never killed anyone because of her though,” I added.
Mingo laughed, ominously.
“You might someday,”
I clipped my cigarette and said goodbye.
Fall brings out the optimist in me. As the trees tinge yellow, red, then an inevitable dark and muddy brown stomped lifelessly into the mud and sewers of the sidewalk, I get a little giddy. Autumn is a reminder of how beautiful the death of things can be, that life is but an episode among a series of joys, woes, and cosmic indifference to both. Don’t get me wrong- the syndication is a good one, a classic as far as I’m concerned, but always on the brink of being cancelled.
The Arrested Development of existentialism, in so many more ways than one.
For me, October is a time when the air is always thick and wet, loaded as sentences and on the verge of rain. Where my nostalgia goes into overdrive and I’m overrun in moments that are bulging like clouds, but just as empty and easy to navigate. Standing near the bus stop the first day of school with a oversized Dragonball Z hoodie, and power level at an underwhelming under nine thousand. Kissing Tiffany in Bryant Park while something under our feet crunched loudly, and made the world smell like skin and an end to childhood. Sundays saying goodbye to my father after another awful weekend sharing a bed in his shitty little bedroom apartment.
The experience is a winter wonderland of wondering where all that time has gone, but I don’t want to come off as a nihilist. To be honest, as I get older, I no longer look to the past as often. But when I do, I look back at it all much more fondly. I want to reach out and call someone I haven’t spoken to or of in years, just to remind Tiffany, Kevin, Jimmy, Corina, or hell, even my father, that at some point I loved them dearly.
But sobriety makes empty feel like more than it really is, so I let those sentiments wither with the foliage and double down on the idea that I’m taking the weather too personally. I’m an optimist, and while it’s all going to hell, I’m not so obsessed with disappointment to not look forward to what might come after Winter. I’ve come to terms with the cup half emptied and don’t care to bother where the other half is gone. I want nothing more than to enjoy what’s left of the bitter coffee, jacketed weather, wind snubbed cigarettes and I-Miss-You texts the season warrants.
“Unca Chino, you’re sleeping and awake again,” Xavier said, a little four foot anchor keeping me from ballooning to those far and dizzying heights.
Luckily I spend these days too busy babysitting my nephews to spend it self mutilating in alcohol and scabs that have long-since healed. It was around 9PM, I remember, and after an obligatory afternoon playing catch and pretend body-slamming them on the collection of leaves we spent all morning gathering on the lawn, I was tired. I ordered a pizza and plugged them into a movie and video games while I brewed coffee that came out especially bitter. It was drizzling, and the raindrops ricochet against the window sill started to say something my mouth and heart could only mumble. I’d had a disgusting dream about toilets, teeth, and spiders, and the dreary sounds of wetness from outside made more sense of it than I could.
Rain speaks to me, the same way it speaks to you and every other writer this side of the century. We aren’t special. It’s not so strange how nature can make a noise that nears closer to truth than anything words can make up. There isn’t more honestly to life, vague sounds just allow for more projection.
“Shower time losers,” I said. “First one that doesn’t smell like feet gets ice cream before bed.” They dashed up the stairs and I leaned my ear closer to the window.
There was another sound besides my melancholy that drew my heart and curiosity closer. Howling, is the only word that came to mind. Howling and guitars. The running waters from their baths upstairs gave me an opportunity, so I used the chance to sneak outside and satiate my greater habits. Cigarettes and busy-bodying.
I took to the driveway where the sound was closest, casually lit a stick of reprieve and sullied along the hedges. Those Jones-town bushes parted and gave way to the neighbors house, a cozy two-story suburbia, complete with a overly playful dog and little balcony facing my sisters house. That was when I saw her.
…Ah Brooklyn, Brooklyn take me in.
Are you aware the shape I’m in?
My hands they shake, my head it spins.
She was moonshining on the porch with a bottle of bourbon, her voice trailing along the sad bluegrass like static against the mini-speakers . A playful little beagle with a wet and button nose started whining at my jeans and cigarette smoke through the gate dividing me from her porch. His searching eyes much sadder than whatever guitar strings she sung three beats off key. I couldn’t see her very well, just silhouettes and blonde streaks my mind filled the blanks of.
It was so cinematic- single guy, cute dog, and a drunk white girl waxing lyrics at the moon; shipwrecked on a second story balcony by some emotional disaster. The pretense was a bit pretentious, even as I was living it, but they say that life imitates art, so I was comely to the cliche of it all. Reached down to scratch behind the mutts ears and whimpers to remind him of what a good boy he was.
“Is that The Avett Brothers?” I asked out loud, knowing full well that it was.
“I thank so,” her accent said, a bit surprised and to my enjoyment.
I let the silence build and focused my attention to scratching where his tail wagged the wildest. Too many words are the enemy of mystery, and the few we shared I carefully loaded to be as exciting and interesting as they could be. My father was a dog, a trait he handed down dutifully to me and my brother. Don’t talk so damn much, he used to say. All these men think the way is sweet talking. A woman likes a man that knows when to shut the fuck up.
The proof is in the pudding, and I’ve got enough step-brothers and sisters to vouch for whatever his methods were.
That woman, she’s got eyes that shine.
Like a pair of stolen polished dimes.
She asked to dance I said it’s fine,
I’ll see you in the morning time.
They say you can’t make sense out of a sentiment, but I can quantify the fuck out of a feeling. For instance, I started following some girl on Reddit that only makes quotes with little accents over the i’s and n’s. I don’t speak the language or understand a damned thing she says, but I damn sure like seeing it. Might be Italian, I think, or Spanish? I can never tell which, and to be honest, I would much rather never know at all. Ambiguity is what makes whatever the hell she’s saying so alluring, and a translation would be a mutilation and only ruin the magic. The not knowing is what makes it as fun as coloring books.
That’s why people watching is only fun with strangers.
“When I was in Tennessee, that’s all I heard between the bars.” I said. And her silhouette either nodded or examined me critically in response.
“My friends can’t stand it, but I really like some country songs.” I added, even though I didn’t. A bad habit: playing a game of two truths and a lie but not telling anybody.
I used to tell myself the horndog gene doubled down on my brother and skipped me. It was practically tradition that every Christmas the family gathered to hear one of the crazy situations and women Joseph got himself into over the years. There was the wife that flew him out to Miami just to bone him whenever her husband got too drunk and fell asleep. Threesomes with cousins who he admitted to me were actually sisters, but didn’t want to gross mom out.
“My parents use to play these songs when we lived in _________, and I hated ’em. Now it’s all I ever listen to.”
“Where’s ___________?” I asked.
“Kentucky,” she said. And I smiled, because destiny has a terrible sense of humor.
“So is that Jamison, Old Grandad, or Jim Bean in your cup?”
She laughed, a dry and raspy thing, bordering between the crisp and crunchy stomp of an Autumn leaf. Or smokers lung.
“You Rey’s brother?” She asked.
“No, the other ones.”
“Those boys are too damn old to be called babies.” I said.
“You want a taste?” She said, raising a hazy outline of the bottle she was drinking.
“Not yet,” I said, and the image of my sister finding out flashed before my eyes the way movies say your life does right before you’re dead.
There was a long pause in the chilled and country New York air, filled only by honking cars and the beagles front paws scratching against the gate for my attention. His breathing heavy with huffed intentions of trying to get over the waist-high barrier between us.
I’m old enough to know the quick wiles of young women. Dumb enough to have experienced the fleeting fancies of the older ones. And oversexed enough to not give a damn about the disasters brought by both.
Her darkness, even from a vague distance, felt so warm and familiar. Comforting- like your room with the blinds are shut tight and it’s an annoyingly sunny day outside.
“If you hear country, I’ll be out here.” She said.
I waved a silent goodbye, gave her pooch some goodbye rough-housing, and sauntered back inside. Xavier was huddled in his 3DS and Ian was coveting an arms race of nerf guns by his bedside. They’d forgotten about the ice cream, and thinking about what awaited outside, I pondered doing the same.
Wondered if these violent delights always needed such thigh-ish ends. If I could break myself from doggish genetics and spend all night with two kids hopped up on ice cream. If I could abort these veins and be more than these base desires. Or are these speculations as sour as the bourbon that could be overflowing my cup. I wanted to be sweet as the mood it seasons and affords, easy as the Hello-Is-That-The-Avett-Brothers I’m showcasing in glassed smiles. It’s a weeknight and she might have work in the morning, but then again so do I. Is it worth getting started on tonight and well on my way to hating myself tomorrow? With alarm clock reminders nagging my pocket, the world knocking violently, trying to abrupt the bluegrass dream. Responsibilities begging at me, like a puppy scratching at the door.
After all if mistakes are what we call experience, then a man is made of them. So if I were to go, I would not be irresponsible. I would merely be building character.
Oh, those empty hours where my righteous rises from the deep. Do I have to? Choose, I mean. Between the calm or the storm. Can’t I be both? Loud and quiet, like the eye of a hurricane.
“All right boys,” I yelled.
“It’s time to-…
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.
“Well nothing good ever came easy.”
“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.
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
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.
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.
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.