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.

Penguins Fly Coach

Rum on the floor and when we dance it’s sticky. with each step. But who cares, because the dark makes sense of what we can’t say out loud and is more aware of our hips and heart than we knew had feeling. Mistaken identities happen naturally when alcohol is involved, but we make the most of it. Pretend to be we are something other than what we pretend to be at 9AM. And if I should grab her waist and scream DESPACITO.

Words I wouldn’t consider were worlds apart but coming from his mouth is all I’m left feeling with. Dick moves in purposefully absent movements, I see through it and laugh at, but being the butt end of a joke still feels inclusive when you’re the punch line.

Should I touch the part between your elbow and shoulder that shines like a silver. Am I an animal to want you close to my body and suffocate in your perfume. So warm it reminds me of Summer, so dark when it’s early and I’m howling.

 

Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous: Felice (Episode IV, A New Hope)

“Tell me something.” I said.

“Like what?”

“Anything, even if it’s something I already know, even if something you already said. Everything sounds better when it comes from you.”

Her eyes rolled, drastically, then fell on the crowd. Searching, as if somewhere in the sea of strangers she could have found what she meant to say. What are you wondering at, you beautiful wonder. But that’s just the way she was- with a hell in her heart and heaven in the eyes, storm in her thighs that consumed you by degrees.

“I don’t want to end up alone,” She said, a bit too honestly.

“You just haven’t met the right person yet.” I parroted, not thinking, just responding in the way some blood cells are supposed to.

“But I hate that idea. Of fucking…presupposing. Like meeting someone is really so inevitable. If people can find happiness in different things, in like, songs, or traveling, or a really good book, why should mine have to come from some other person?”

“They write songs about people who fall in love the way you do.” I said. “But that’s all they are. Just songs.”

My lies are noble. I didn’t think that was necessarily true, but what she needed to hear. Misleading is a treason I’m likely to commit, even if those were never my intentions. Then again, what consequences are? She looked back to the crowd a little angrily, ran her knuckles on the counter in a way that made me hungry, and Felice smiled like she had just said her own name.

We sat there, loud, but empty.  Like glass bottles clinking. Humanity is a strange enigma, toasting to his or her own empty fantasia- specific instances of precise happiness undefinable by sobriety. An escape endlessly clouded by the myriad of errors that got you there. Forgotten, wasted, and inexplicable. Taken for granted like keys you swore you lost but show up at your bedside.

Her pupils stuttered and whatever emotion that almost revealed itself winced back to the chasm from where it came. No one’s ever been able to meet my eye. Some chalk it up to shyness, others have said there’s too much honesty in them, while my self conscious worries I may secretly be hideous. But logic tells me, whatever the real reason may be, I would not be able to change it anyway. And so whatever flaw or warning my stare carried became an overlooked quality I simply accepted in me. Like height, or never holding doors open for the elderly.

“You’re a good guy,” She said.

“I’m no hero.”

“No,” She replied with a smile. “Heroes don’t look like you.”

Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous: Felice (Episode III)

Felice walked into the bar looking like the kind of girl they wrote songs about, and I made it a point to not make that obvious.

“Haven’t I seen you wear that shirt before?”

“Where do you get it?” She asked. “This confidence you definitely don’t deserve.”

The air smelled like starched shirts, mistakes, and too much perfume. Sex. Such a sick validation of a grotesque existence. My heart strung on the soft tendons of her knuckles that left me wondering where the arches of her neck leads. A feminine physique, the scent of raspberries; wide hips narrowing to fine waist. They say a woman’s collar bones are the front lines of a mistake, and Felice was made of divine proportions.

“The smartest disease,” I said. “Is the kind that can disguise itself well enough to look like it’s a part of you. To fool the body into thinking it’s just another blood cell. That’s the way it is with people too. You gotta fake it til you take over their immune system.”

“You just compared yourself to cancer.” She said.

So young, beautiful, and cruel. She enriches me as a lover but ruins the writer, makes lighter all those tragedies I rattle with a beer can. Kissed by fire and freckled by 80’s rock ballads; she was terrible at the song of vice and liars. Honest to a fault with fireworks in her eyes- Felice. It means happy in Spanish and you had to smile to say her name. Hair halfway down her back and a dip between her shoulder blades. Thin fingernails and long, smooth knuckles that looked like almonds hiding under a bar of chocolate. Smokers lips and eyebrows that were either always sad or frowning.

“But I’m a Taurus.” I said. And she tried not to laugh, but failed.

We were coworkers at one point and I used to obsess over all her nuances. She was beautiful to me in fractions, not from the sum of all her parts. Each arch and nook of her frame and body seemed so unique, that I could tell the shape of her from anywhere. We remained light friends, occasional Facebook comment and el-oh-elling at a meme. An acquaintance that never quite made it as a friend, but if she ever cut ties and left, I would be a husk.

Because a cage without a bird is an empty thing.

DJ Got Me Falling In Retrograde

Music has never held me. Instead of instigating a feeling, I think it becomes a substitute for one. An emotional crutch we latch on to, and use to limp through new experiences with phantom limbs that aren’t missing. Injuries and cuts opened on a stereo or dance floor, lyrics hummed along because they are remembered, and what masochist doesn’t like a little salt in their wounds?

“Ohhhhhhh my God! Remember Justin!? This was Justin’s song,” She said, fumbling a Malibu between her fingers and awkward dance moves.

A lull goes over the eyes and her head hangs while the rest of her body doesn’t, a one way trip down misery lane to whoever this Justin is or was.

And I can’t relate. There can be a song playing in the bar or my car radio, but it doesn’t ever remind me of someone specifically. Instead, I’m flung back to that narrow stretch from when I first heard it, fully equipped with all the baggage of that era. Mr. Jones and me danced silence down to the morning, counting pigeons from my window sill and wondering what strange and amazing people my young heart had yet to meet. Swiped left on the wrong people and my twenties stumbled me into a Boulevard of Broken Dreams. Haunting delis and libraries for any beer or book that might be a means of escape. So brash and full of myself, but empty, like a silhouette. Trying to find who I was, not realizing I’d always been him.

“I hope he’s alright,” She said. “I haven’t seen in him since February.”

Then I met May in June, and my Springsteen started in July. Nothing but a Hungry Heart living out his Glory Days, champagne out of wine glasses and half-assed attempts at the adult version of being romantic on a college budget. Ten dollar bottles of wine and Save Tonight on repeat. Lost my virginity to Buddy Holly in Sara’s basement that one Summer, the same one You Give Love A Bad Name became an anthem and self explanatory. Learned about lust and the sweet pangs of loving someone from a distance, so the rest of that year I took a incredible joy in destroying myself with drugs and sex over and over again.

“You know he sang this to me at Crissy’s birthday party, right?”

So music doesn’t do it for me. It’s terrible, a conceited self reflection we’ve all decided to be alright with. Regrets made public with a chorus you can scream in a room full of strangers without appearing all too crazy. Much better than the alternative, having to face and put to words the way someone once made you feel. Skip the song, put away the salt and show your wounds and bruises. Explain just how you got them, even if they aren’t finished healing.

“Do you miss him?” I asked, opening the subject.

“Fuck that asshole,” She said flatly.

And kept dancing along to the music.

 

Items In The Rearview May Appear Larger Than They Really Are (and who says they aren’t even bigger?)

Not much to show for the boys who grew up the way I did. Juveniles only in it for the thrills, no arrest record, money piles or illegitimate children this side east of the Hudson. All we’ve got to show for broken windows and slammed doors are vague drug-laced memories and Instagram photos. (Profile private, because we did it for us, not the for the likes.)

Ivan’s doing pretty alright last I checked. Moved in with a thick thighed prize this past Spring.  I could tell he was in love because the club pics started coming in less and less, replaced with vacation snaps with Lo-Fi filters and her big hair on that thin body waving like the palm trees behind them.  I like to see my people doing well, even if it isn’t with me.  The last time I tried to get Ive on a plane he called out broke, then bought the Pathfinder he’s been shining on ever since. Caught an attitude when me and the boys mentioned all the Island-Girls he missed. Said a bunch of guys going overseas is some…well, let’s just say he didn’t agree.

I think it takes a woman to make a man do all the things he’s afraid to. Peer pressure has never put someone they don’t want to be. We’re cowards, really. Crowded around a blunt, six pack, video game or sports bullshit. Children wrestling in verbal warfare with manhood and ourselves. Too silly to be serious. It takes a woman to make a man do things he isn’t prepared to. Crimes of passion are just another way of saying Her-Sex-Was-Good-Enough-To-Make-Him-Do-That.

Joe’s struggling with a baby and a mortgage, same man that swore any girl trying to tie him down better have some strong ass rope. I like his son, David, for weird reasons. Nothing special about the little herb, but he’s the first born of our generation. When I see him chasing fireworks I wonder if he’ll chase lows the way we did. Monkey room looming with too much hookah in our system. Fistfights and Miller Lights coursing through our blood. Dangerous as bulls, hungry, like wolves. Amsterdam avenue thugging, but not really. The college boys were afraid of us being the darkest thing besides the sofas or bouncers. We just needed somewhere to wander until the night or some girls bed could cool our blood.

Not much to show for the boys who grew up the way I did. Just pockets full of memories and the good kind of regret.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I pointed to the guy in gauges.

“Tell him I want a Guinness.”