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.
Can lovers remain friends?
No, but May makes me wonder if there isn’t something else our relationship could settle into apropos. Feelings are pretty sticky in a gross way you would expect, like syrup or childrens hands, and it isn’t often after the playground tumults of lust and love that I find much in the debris of interpersonals. Yet in the spaces I thought her absence would leave vacant and yearning, instead there is the same respect and adoration for her company as before. Instead I’m asking my phone out loud, I-Wonder-How-She’s-Doing, then text to ask out of no obligation other than I’d like to know.
“If that’s what you want, it’s fine,” She said. “But I know you, and I want to make sure we stay friends.”
There’s no point in stating the obvious, like those trust exercises when somone falls backwards into a persons arms. It’s not the height that makes me nervous, but why you can’t just take my word that I believe when you say you’ll catch me. I’d unconsciously decided to become defensive because of it. To a monster the norm is monstrous, and my first instinct was to reject any resemblance of feelings becoming stationary or steady. I can’t stand to sit down, am too odd to ever be even. Give me my coffee boiling hot or cold enough to make my teeth clatter. Let my experiences, and not my telling of them, be exaggerate and exhausting. A life lived in extremes is the only life worth living- I’d sooner rather die right this instant than one day look back at all my sufferings, loss, and achievements thinking “I guess it was okay.”
“Friends, right?” She said again.
May is stubborn in her pleasance, and my heart is rendered incapable of offending her love in any form. I remember the spiritual muck she saw me lying in, the hands that helped hang away the hang-ups keeping me grounded six feet deep. My life is owed to her, and whatever she should ever desire, my very bloody hands will find the way to deliver it to her.
“Friends,” I repeated, but more like a question.
I don’t know what the word entails. Will I be a weekend ruin with her, damning our souls and morality down Amsterdam chasing thighs and feelings? Another Roger barking up my phone and timeline on Saturday nights, pseudo-social sojourns with dim girls and coworkers, howling at the moon because we’re too young to be this lonely. Or will she only call me when her boyfriend is out of town and she’s bored, looking to lose herself in the arms and eyes of someone else that isn’t hopelessly decimate in an unhappy relationship? (Here’s Looking At You, Kid.) Or maybe she means the kind of people that only reach out when they need something, like someone else to double date because his girlfriend thinks you’re too ugly and grumpy to make a move on her or suggest a four-way.
“Friends,” She said again, this time softly under her breath. Then something went soft in her eyes that seemed to add
“I can tell you need one of those.”
I’ve never been good at listening to other people’s problems and I’m chronically late to pity parties. I don’t have the patience for whine and dining, I’d rather jump straight to bed where the daily inconsequentials about yourself take a back seat to the deeper things that are at play. Most people are old fashioned and like to take things slow after sex, consider honest truths about themselves too “intimate” to be shared before the flesh or so immediately. I suppose that must make me a slut, spreading my heart to the first pair of honey eyes and warm thighs with a violent pulse.
I don’t blame the shame because I’m no romantic and either way it doesn’t last. Nothing does. Maybe that’s why I have a tendency to hit it and quit it, emotion wise. And sometimes when I’m standing in a grocery line or watching a movie I have this incredible urge to stand up and yell. I never do so I never know what I would actually say. It can’t be anything healthy, whatever it is that’s pent up, but I’ll never let it out. That might be counterintuitive but that’s life.
Nature can turn against itself. My cat likes to chew on plastic.
“There’s something in the way you look at me,” she says. “I don’t think anyone’s ever looked at me like you do.”
Isabella doesn’t drink, she simmers. When I stare into those bright, cloudy pools of milk and caramel she calls eyes a dark desire fills my heart and all extremities. Like burning alive on a smaller scale, and there is no lie in her fire. My nerves tingle in a calm excitement and I become painfully aware, sensitive to the slightest touch that tethers our bodies. Her beautiful mouth curves a smile and I’m called…no, tugged and compelled towards her like a marionette by a string.
“Do you have a wife?” She asks me casually, and I answer no. “A girlfriend then,” she presses, and in the soft intimacy of her legs wrapped in mine, I confess to so-and-so’s. To my heart having grown brash, bitter and unstable. That I don’t trust these whimsies and so called feelings, for they’ve betrayed me, and in their wake I find less beauty in life and even lesser of myself. Sentiments leave a wound and I’ve never been able to resist a scab. Yet it was in that flame of deception and lies that I was tempered, and I was surprised to find my mettle too strong to be melded.
Outside five burros are crying to the dry, arid sunrise. A cricket chirps, two coyotes wail at the moon, and between the bitter thymes of El Torito and Sergio Vargas it begins to rain. Begins to wet the still and thirsty earth so yearning for its due. Isabella mewls and I feel her warm heart thump against the imprint of palm. the crease and edges of her skin smooth and tell a story to my fingertips like braille. Its five am and soon a cab will call me down to home and other sunsets. The notion numbs me. I can’t bare the thought, to leave her side or moment unfulfilled, but what matter that we lay together when sleep tears us apart and a dream will keep us separate.
“Will you stay the night?” She asks. And I nod to confess so.
The coyotes howl and somewhere back home my cat is chewing happily on a garbage bag. I kiss her sweet lips and feel the the ashes of my soul ignite my passion once again.
Love, like life, must find a way.