The Cassandra Complex

You can’t honestly love a dishonest thing, and the loneliest women always find a way to me. With their steel eyes and emptied hands, pockets full of lint and wedding rings. SoCal socio-megalomaniacs; idle, only innit for the lol’s and cheap thrills. Desperate, for attention maybe, often restless and occasionally cold feet. Melancholy misfits and Tinder-ed housewives, specifically of the military variety (Here’s Looking At You, Kid) curious to see beyond the veil and iron curtain of their staled lives of routine.

“Little young for jazz, aren’t you?” Says Marianne.

Everybody’s got an audience, my uncle used to say, and I happen to know mine very intimately. I provide risk with a bit of comfort, I suppose; the safety of A hedged bet when the thought that There-Could -Be-Something-Better-Than-This creeps into your bed sheets and makes a home inside your head. Because nobody puts baby in a corner or ever really bets it all on black, that stuffs for the movies, so the easiest way to steal second base is by keeping a foot on first.

“I won’t card you if you don’t card me,” I replied.

Friday’s are dry, dull, and take forever to get you anywhere like a NY taxi. When the office population is sparse and I can’t bare the sound of another fax or thunk of the copy machine, I like to throw on Spotify to help fill the empty hours in anything work appropriate. Personal playlist are a hard pass and immediate negative; there’s far too many expletives and small tragedies behind those lyrics for me to care about e-mails, when Arctic Monkeys are asking the only two questions I give a damn about. Whatever’s on top of the charts sounds so recycled I can’t tell one song from the other, and is usually popular for the kind of people who still laugh at the word faggot or don’t shut the fuck up about Beyonce.

And I honestly don’t really need that kind of noise in my life. So Jazz stations are the safest bet, not necessarily out of choice, but a process of elimination. Much like Marianne.

“It’s not polite to ask a woman her age,”

“I never said I cared.”

She was pretty. Not hot, beautiful, stunning, breath-taking or amazing. Pretty, like a painting or very well kept apartment. She had a fading glow of gorgeous, the makeup, accent nail and deep-vee blouses stressing just the right amount of collar bone and decolletage to make her desirable. But there was a hunger about her, a poverty of touch, expressive gestures of the mouth, hands, and tongue. Eyes that said yes to questions I hadn’t been asking.

When she talked she had a habit of putting a hand against my arm or chest, remarking casually about receptionist schedules or what Debra said to her last week. Let it rest and linger for just enough time for it to be considered suggestive, although not entirely inappropriate. While I go by on empty head nods, trying hard not to smile in a way that’s too obvious or says Hi-My-Eyes-Are-Up-Here.

“Have you had lunch yet? I’d kill for some eggplant. Doesn’t some eggplant sound so good right now?” She asks. A loaded question as far as emojis were concerned.

“The killing or the eggplant?” I say. And she smiles, not answering.

Honesty is the best policy and I am a liar of the worst degree. But God is good and prone to favoring symmetry, so She evened me with a horrible poker face, so bad the only way I could be any more obvious would be a tail wagging between my legs. Which, in a sense, there actually is.

“How’s Richard?” I ask. A Self sabotage, because I love to ruin things for myself.

Poor Richard, off on a different kind of fishing. I’d heard his legend, the atypical over protective and underwhelming handsome- pale, blue eyed and red tan lines notorious in men of adventure. Likely under the impression that golden ticket of appearance and arm candy doesn’t start to fade after six years of a flat-lined marriage, hadn’t seen the signs in the sand of Marianne building castles elsewhere.

“Around. Visiting his brothers.” She says, her thoughts elsewhere.

I couldn’t blame her. Emotional ransom is a dick move and there’s nothing worst than feeling indebted to someone. Infidelity is a sin big as littering, in my humble opinion, especially if the alternative is a long conversation on what’s wrong that is on its fifth resurgence. Nut up or shut up, I guess, but that’s much easier to say without a mortgage and your entire life nailed down to another person.

“You should call him,” I say, and quite honestly. She scoffs like I’d ask her for ID and takes her hand from my arm, collects herself in a physical retreat.

Un chiodo fuori un chiodo,” She says.

“What?”

“It’s Italian. It means, a nail takes out a nail. Or, you need a nail to forget a nail. Something like that.”

I understood, I think, how much cheaper it is to add another coat of paint than go all in on another lease. How we bury uncomfortable in other things, money, people, sex, memes.

“Sounds like a painful way to solve a problem.” I say.

“I’m going downstairs to close up. Keep your phone on in case I get stuck,” She says, dismissively, turning away from me and the suggestion down the hall.

Leaving me to wonder why do I not lose my voice when the moments are so critical? Why do I see a light at the end of tunnels and look for shadows? I’m terrified of not standing in my truth, of growing younger, because regression is a form of death and I’m proud of the monster I’ve worked so hard to become. Was it desperation? A hunger and poverty of the soul? Unexpressed gestures of the mind, heart, and tongue. Sometimes, above all else, I wish I knew how to just shut the fuck up and enjoy a bad thing well.

A while passes and my phone screen lights up, with a message from Marianne.

“Deb leave yet”

The worse weight a man can carry is a conscience, and a best practice among sex and love addicts anonymous is to pack light.

“Negative.”

Because the top of one mountain is the bottom of the next, especially when it comes to orgasms.

“Come to elevator rm when she does”

It’s heaven on the way down but one hell of a climb up. Which may make me a hypocrite, but only on a technicality.

“Are you trapped again?”

Like atheist who moan about God during sex.

“No. Bring 🍆”

Un chiodo fuori un chiodo.

Advertisements

There’s No Street Cleaning In Providence

Father-

Your days weigh more than the family around your neck.
Nine months and nine pounds without your voice or hand,
my mother called, and you said: “Give Him My Name, Noel.”
And she abided, faithfully, by the promises made
that warm May night. But years proved these words,
like so many other parts of you,
were broken, and so I am yours
in name only.

I haven’t your dark eyes, fair skin or welcome wiles.
That cooing air of arrogance
in your smile, or the graceful way your beard
rises and settles into a dignified chin.
Your daughters are your spitting image,
shorter and effeminate, but telling tales
of their ancestry by the nines
of their soft and thoughtfully thin
eyes, a wild nose above cupid bow lips.

I am not like them;
every camera and mirror whispers,
how my genes have aborted you.
And yet strangers say the strangest things-
like that I am most your son when I look most annoyed.
Something in the nothing of demeanor
makes me summon your image to men and women
that have known you. The passive opening and closing of a fist.
In a folded leg, an unconsciously tapping foot,
staring into the distance with a cigarette dangling from my lip.
All of these acts I thought my self are borrowed,
are not my own, are ghostly references to a man
this man
who grew up growing you
says are bestowed;
are reflections of the seed
being strong.

But…how?

My first razor was from the deli man,
his eyes lost when I asked him how to do it,
until he could understand that I was young and
that I needed. My first day of school was Johanna
ironing clothes, running me over with a lint brush,
combing my hair and reminding me
no girl likes a boy who sucks his thumbs.
Sex came from a box, a secret, a word of mouth
passed along the boys and bus rides.
Shared and studied in the dim blue tint of monitors
and television screens when nobody could see us
in our vile innocence. YouTube learned me
with tutorials, my first suit from my first check
a baggy thing. Green shirt, black tie, but
from your few visits I’d already known
how to make a knot
having been left in one.

Yet I am most your son when I look most annoyed.
The passive opening and closing of a fist. A folded leg.
An unconsciously tapping foot. Staring into the distance
with a cigarette dangling from my lip.

And I wonder, can character carry in a vein?
Have I shed and denied your look but not your scowl?
Am I as doomed as you are, to the rum on my breath
and vagabonding with the boys on Tuesday night’s
rather than with my family home? Father,
our days are numbered like the calendar
and when I’m fugitive to a feeling;
waxing gibbons and poetics at the moon,
I’m tempted to think my temperament is nothing
more than an heirloom. Is a remnant of you
in the recesses of my blood,
and I’m tempted to take a razor and gut you out.

But there is no salvation in suffering your self;
it’s best to leave that to the masochist.

Instead I’ll wear your name proudly,
but like a cautionary tale.
Instead I’ll learn to love
better than how you’ve taught me.

Well.

Some Goodbyes Don’t Require It (aka There’s Three Sides To A Story For Every Beast With Two Backs)

“Everyone says you two are fucking,” Lindsey tells me, flat as an iron, or her chest. Whichever is less cliché and more offensive.

We’d stayed friends despite myself, or rather, she stayed on talking terms with me no matter how much I didn’t deserve it.

I asked who started spreading, focusing on the stack of files in front of me, but she wouldn’t say. Gossip is for gluttons with a reserved taste: they only feed if they are fed, and I had nothing to barter with. Besides, we’d had a past, shared scotch cobblers and orgasms between shrills and bolognese. It’s much harder than you would expect to find a middle ground when the candle of a relationship burns out on both ends. Easier to abandon ship, call her crazy and him an asshole, keep that kind memory of how much they meant buried somewhere so deep you can pretend to forget about it. Right next to your 6th grade friends phone number, or the thing you said to your father.

“People say a lot of things,” I said, because I didn’t care about Lindsey any more.

But I cared for Lindsey, if that makes any sense.

And if I could omit a line of history so that her rage could remain in hypotheticals, she’d sleep easier while still hating me the same for it.

“Well are you.” She said, not asking.

“Am I what?” I asked, not saying.

“Fucking her.” She demanded.

Right and wrong, the difference between righteous and a travesty. I used to know the difference. I was a good man once, but a long time ago I learned a good man is good for nothing.

“No, right now I’m filing,” I said.

So she smacked me.

CANDY LOTTO BEER CHIPS CIGARETTES

I-Just-Wish-I-Was-Home doesn’t mean much until it’s 5 AM and I’m skinless once again.

My baby doesn’t mind the perfume huff and steaming of cigar smoke. 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 her parents are asleep but what’s fifteen minutes in my car downstairs. My hands on her and mind on Thalia, 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’ 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 with a sour face, a quarter into it and half complaining.

“Can’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 stretched nylons. Dark hearts, sea-saw’d faults, one swing and a slide on a lark to hands fumbling for meaning. Absolution for dummies, prayer made easy: all it takes is a good idea gone bad in a passenger seat to make a sin, all we’ll wake to is alarm clocks, sweat, and porcelain kisses. 

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

“There,” she hums. “Right there.”

“Where,” I drum. “Tell me where,”

She isn’t wearing panties, just cut-off jeans and a weak hurt. Neither was Thalia. Brown like the dawn and burning honest as a truth left burning on a text message. A tout touch touched terrifically. Weak and wishing. Honorably hungry.

I didn’t care enough to tell one from the other. I couldn’t tell the difference and let myself balloon on the air of two sweet jaded frictions. Numb without a word. Come devout and sure. Whispers that she’s mine while the sun is rising to make us human.

And then it started raining.

Two Is A Crowd, Episode II

No bouncer at the door and a newly drawn sign “Welcoming Lost Souls To Oblivion…and $9 Cocktails. For Madmen Only.” I made my way in.

“I told you we had a true one, Anna,” Said Sam, his gunmetal gray eyes the first I met as I walked in. Like he were waiting for it.

Anna, with her back half turned and a song see-sawing her her waist and shoulders, “He must have a sixth sense for a good time,” Said Anna.

Everything inside could have been crafted by their hands. Dim lights, swirvy armchairs, the smooth smell of leather and wood in the air. Hems of polka dot skirts bobbing along the sparse room singing and laughing with freshly decked men that had their ties loose and top buttons undone. All singing and laughing to the melody of congruence. Even the bartenders chiseled and serious chin lowered and smiled, like he was in on it. Whatever “it” was, or is.

“Lucky guess,” I said, taking my place in the only space between them. “Next time don’t brag, and give me an address I can Google.”

I smiled, or tried to, but Sam looked away. Displeased and annoyed, like he’d been given a poem for a place to meet up but nobody showed, I thought I was being casual, but when I turned to Anna even she had hid her face,

“How did you find us?” Anna asked. Boredly. A question with about as much significance as How-Was-Your-Weekend on Monday morning.

I sat between them and stared at my bubbling pint for the courage and words. They wouldn’t come, but, I wouldn’t drink until I found them either.

“I tried to think like you,” I said. Forcing myself. How difficult it was, knowing honesty was in a glass within my hand I couldn’t take. But there was a thing they wanted and a thing that needed to be said. A confession or rite of passage. A three legged beast and club I was on the verge to become a part of. But if I were drunk, well then, yes we would be friends but not really.

So I did it with the comfort of knowing what I was confessing was something hard to label in the aftermath that doesn’t come off as stupid. “A certain taste in the air, the way people on Bleeker moved when I was smoking. I got a scent, and I followed and…fuck. I don’t know! I tried to…I did, see thing, as you’d see them. Then I got feelings, hunches on which way to go.”

“And?”

“I went. Something told me you were here. Like a fucking voice or something, I don’t know. It wouldn’t tell me where to go but it would tell me where I shouldn’t. So I got here and, I don’t know.

By then I took a drink. “I just got the feeling that you would like this sort of place- out of the way, but still in the thick of it. Dark but light, quiet and loud.” I looked around unsure. “And it is nice, and you. This place is very you. But like I said, I got lucky.”

Sam and Anna laughed, together and alone, separately but cherused. They bought me a drink and kissed me with their smiles, as they had a tendency to.

Two Is A Crowd (Episode I)

It was five minutes before a bad day at work was almost over when I felt my pocket buzz, and before I even read it I knew it would have something to do with sex.  I should have gone home and ordered pizza the way I planned, but, I wanted to see them. Even if their text didn’t have a place or time to meet, just a train station and vague mention to what might happen phrased like a warning, Meant as an enticement. Succeeding in both.

Took a midnight train to forfeit soon as I logged into Instagram and saw how much fun other people were having. Punched my ticket at the deli in a $9 bottle of rum before the 1 train rolled in, and I roared in ready because Spotify had a playlist I hated ready for me.

Seventeen stops later, seventh Avenue opened up to me in swank high rises and suavely slacked strides clicking towards the distant turn-lights of neon bar signs. Overtly overdressed mademoiselles applauding down the avenue, distracting my attention with their contoured faces and purposely painted high cheekbones. New York is a terrible place to be unsure of where you’re going, with blackened windows at every bar and bouncers bishoping lines make everywhere seem like the place you should be.

They didn’t provide an exact address, so I thought actually finding Sam and Anna would be a mild goose chase; a red herring they text me to be annoying and their idea of funny. But as I exited Bleeker Street subway station to nobody, and my texts received no answer, I leaned against a lamp post. Annoyed and a little anxious to review the test she/he/they sent me, some clue I could Mapquest or decipher.

In a hidden seventh avenue lies a street
and Steppenwolf; some beast astray
that finds no home or joy in Greenwhich
or world that is strange
and incomprehensible to him.

Drunk texts after 1AM with “intellectuals” are annoying like this. Throwing a book reference with where we might have met is bush league, and I did leave my apartment thirty minutes after I said… yet. Something. Hard to label what in the aftermath that doesn’t come off as stupid. A certain taste in the air, the way the crowd of people on Bleeker moved and wavered between my cigarette smoke. I felt a scent, and like a psychic or lunatic I found myself heading in a  direction purely guided by instinct.

I would find them, I thought. Or I wouldn’t, and have a drink anyway. That’s what I thought as I wandered into The Slaughtered Lamb. A neat little dive bar quartered to a corner near sixth avenue where the streets get all whacky in Greenwich Village.

No bouncer at the door and a newly drawn sign “Welcoming Lost Souls To Oblivion…and $9 Cocktails. For Madmen Only.”

I made my way in.

Hey Big Guy, Sun’s Gettin’ Real Low (aka I’d Take A Bullet For You. Like, The Sex Toy)

Success makes me uncomfortable. I’m more likely to go on a bender bragging about mistakes I’ve done than stand tall on the soapbox of Facebook, letting the people who barely care know just where I spent my weekend pretending to have a good time or volunteering.

“This weekend? Got back from teaching English in Honduras,” He said, casually. “So sad, what’s going on out there.”

“This weekend I took a shower and put on pants when I went outside,” I said, proudly. “Twice.

There’s humility in defeat, a shared lesson or dick joke we could all learn a thing or two from. But success is suffocating, smothers conversation no matter how much it’s ignored, and stifles words in your throat like hot air in a stuffy room. An uncontrollable instinct to brag upward or retreat into yourself is inevitable because winning doesn’t have a gag or wisecrack. Only a line, and a dare.

“Next is Cuba,” Robby said, and some woman awww’d from the corner of the circle. “Maybe India if I get the raise I’m waiting on.”

“I don’t think I’ve left the country since Bush was President.” I replied, half-assed.

“You should come,” He said. And his eyes made an emphasis on certain words.

I hadn’t seen Robby since what he stole from me last Summer – roughly seventy two dollars in cab fare and whatever was left of my belief in human decency. He has a habit of dragging me into problems I should know better and avoid, gets too drunk too function and sticks me with the tab and social bill. I never want to go, but it’s hard to deny him. He’s got a way with words that makes words feel uncomfortable, in a fun way. Un-clever and gorgeous enough to barely pass for charming. Confident without compliments, because beauty doesn’t need validation.

“Oh yeah? When are you going?” I asked.
“June maybe. Definitely next Summer.”

Last time Robby made plans we were four hours away from New York in his bosses housewarming party, inebriated out of our minds on Jefferson’s and a bunch of whiskey way out of my pay grade. Close to midnight our ride up disappeared into the night with a brunette stacked like textbooks in a college bookstore. And when I asked him what the hell we were supposed to do he gave me a look that said Tough-Shit-Buddy and God-Be-With-You all at once.

“Pilot might meet a brown haired girl he likes. I don’t know.”

“Are you still on that?” Robby said, laughing. “I told you it was an accident.”

Fifth of July was a wild morning of trying to convince taxi drivers to let us in while Robby kept throwing up on the curbside. And when we finally managed to hit the long black road home, and I complained about his friend ditching us, Robby admitted, between barfs, in a pure drunken state where all the fucks are lost and never to be given- that he knew we’d be ride-less back home the whole time.

“He said he’d give us a ride back home then Nate met that girl. What did you want me to do?”

And a rage built inside of me I never felt before. Being deceived in some way is a given with humanity, but what a rodeo, staring at a liar shrugging at you with his red hands. Like ‘Yeah-I’ve-Done-It. And?’ I couldn’t believe a friend would do such a thing willingly. I thought misunderstandings happened because we miss the chance at assuming best intentions. Not like that, not so much mean on purpose. Then to be made out as crazy for fact checking is about as hair pulling as fake news.

“More, I guess.” I said.

“I’m sorry I always let you down.”

But it isn’t all his fault, I think. In those three hours I battled the very real and un-exaggerated urge to smother Robby with my fist or a pillow, I learned something. About him, and myself. Liquor might make a man low, but never more capable. Whatever violence boiled in my blood against him was just as real sober, only more buried. And all the times Robby bragged about his life and job when he dragged me out with him were only misplaced moments of inadequacy. He was trying to overlap me in a race he was the only one having, winning in a game I had no idea we were playing.

“So are you coming? To Cuba?” He asked. And I laughed.

“I wouldn’t be caught dead in public with you.”

But we went.