It’s All Over With Humanity- But There’s Still You and I, Stranger. Two Of Us Left

“It’s getting late in my city and from my window I can see the people shuffling from the warm Summer air to their homes, bars, beds or orgies, and I wonder where their life is taking them. Also sometimes the color of their underwear.

I like to count people in public and anti-socialize. Today I’m at 103 and a lady who asked me what I was writing called me a faggot under her breath when I walked away, so I must be doing something right. It takes a while to get self efficient, to really enjoy anything if you’re alone doing it. Kisses are nice but I prefer letters, because intent has a wider palette than the tongue, and I’ve got the cowardly heart of a man which makes me prone to sex and bad decisions. So now I spend my afternoons wandering the lust away instead of dulling it in a bar or bedroom.

While I’m walking I can’t help notice there’s something so unnatural about cities: paved roads along concrete sidewalks with giant, monstrous buildings that tower over you. They make you feel so small, how they loom over you like that. And the trees, so thin, and miserable. Branches so small they might fall off with the next strong wind down Park Avenue. Trees out of breath and just about shaking from how sick they are. Besides, from what I read they aren’t even really trees. They’re decorative; some advanced faux-wood, constantly trimmed and cut and probably kept on a drug to keep them from ever growing too much. Everything about New York is artificial; dressed up, disguised. Flashing signs on stores and awnings, marquee billboards. Bright lights, dull city, overexposed to the man-made elements. Like Plato’s burning cave, but with neon lights and too much tits on magazine covers.

It makes them complacent so complacent, all 103 of them. So complacent they don’t notice anything. Like sometimes, I see snow. I’ll be out on Madison Avenue in the middle of Summer and I’ll see snowflakes, tiny and quick, flurrying all over the street. And I’m obviously shocked, but when I look around to see other people’s reactions, nobody else seems to notice while they power walk down the street in a rush to absolutely nowhere. Snow, in the middle of god damn Summer, and nobody seems to notice.

But if someone were to ask me about it, I’d probably call them a faggot under my breath when they walked away.”

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Malade Imaginaire (Cassie, Episode I)

There was a stale remnant of the weekend hanging on my breath, a dark and shapeless nag pestering against the flickering subway lights and dimming silver handrails. Thick and smothering between pressed buttoned shirts, noose ties and summer dresses huddled on the express Lexington avenue bound for midtown before a final stop to nowhere. My thoughts felt like strangers at a party,  huddled close to one another but no one knowing what to say.

A small-suited man bumped against my shoulder and apologized. I meant to do the same, opened my lips to speak, but they did not make a sound. I glanced up at the dead eyed glare of an Asian woman baring her teeth in what some might call a smile. A poster for a college or language learning center. Bold, black marker graffiti obscured most of it, so that the only visible parts were the slender neck of a woman and a tagline written in a worn, exciting red.

“GENERATION AFTER G NE ATION!!!” It said.

I got off the next stop, sent a vague text to my boss about feeling sick and began to wander Manhattan. Everywhere was a feint, hostile, seething unrest bubbled from the gum spotted granite sidewalks; steaming softly from the city grates like vapor. While the oak and marble fronts of restaurants, businesses and delicatessens glistened with the unnatural sheen and polish of something new and untouched. Beautiful and prosthetic.

It was all so awful.

I wanted to be drunk, or dead, or anything except that feeling lingering beneath my tongue like a razor blade. To forget myself and all my troubles, if only for a little while.

It was only 7AM but in my heart it was twenty minutes to last call; and I had all day to no longer feel human. I have to forget, otherwise I fall in a pit of something. A madness and not the poetic kind. The mad kind. The kind that roams the empty city at 5am smiling at the air. The kind that wakes up in strange apartments and motel rooms wet in somebody else’s sweat without a clue or memory of how he got there. The kind that talks and wiles like it’s all just a clever little game, but is burning alive, is howling in laughs and I-Like-Your-Hair.  The kind that’s quietly out to ruin something because a moaning in his blood compels him to, reminds him it’s all just a cosmic accident and that devils do not exist, were molded after men. And women.

Terrible for each other, and much worse for anyone else.

Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful (aka Any Mythical Beast Try To Step They Are Catching These Hands)

Evenings are my clementine, when the sun dips and the world bundles into itself. An atmosphere perfect for the monomania of melancholy, where the mass of sound has a quiet you’re afraid to disturb. Like a cutting board to gut these thoughts. There’s dirt beneath my fingernails and my lungs taste like apple cider beers and tinder. Tents pitched some distance apart, the soft swish of sifting body bags and sex tinge the air.

Beyond the bonfire is a boundless void and damp darkness, with monsters, goblins, ghouls and God knows what lurking in the shadows. Twigs snap, earth brushed, A movement that isn’t human and yellow eyes dancing wildly out in the expanse. I stand and take my phone like a lantern towards them, because bourbon veins and my sex make me courageous. Let me face demons before the lush or my virtue fades untested.

I am alone but not, in a quiet I am afraid to disturb.  Like in my city I am braving the night, but in a different type of solidarity. There is no loneliness in nature, only peace and an acute sense of how insignificant you are. But as the moon makes wet shadows on the floor and I raise my sword, the monsters that greet me have names. Tara, Joseph and Adam. Lost, bleary, red eyed, high and chuckling; empty head nods.

A deep desire for isolation overwhelms me. I want to be alone, but more so. To be by myself is not enough. Some pieces would remain, parts, fragments, fractions of dismantled moments floating through the recess of all that thought they knew me. All my love(s) and acquaintances stumbling on a memory of me like a tombstone. Notebooks full of words and a catalogue of half-started almosts. Someone somewhere would come across something Summer or frost enough to summon me and think, Oh-Yeah-Just-Like-Him. Pollute me with their thoughts. No, I want to be alone, but more so. Memory is a form of life, a mental gossip, social whisper, scandal and internal dialogue. Casual inferences never spoken but permanently embedded in thoughts. I crave something more permanent- to be erased and irreversibly forgotten.

To be alone without the pollution of what another person thinks.

To face monsters, not people. 

It Takes Two To Tango (So If The Sex Was Lousy That’s Also Your Fault)

I was born once but have died many times, a suicides cacophony,
dressed down to the 9’s in dismantled almost and
New York is covered in my gravestones.
145th and Park, drowned in taco flavored kisses
and horchata. Time of death: when her lips met mine (1:59AM)

Lost count how many lives lost down Amsterdam,
Jakes dilemma like mine: Do or Don’t,
a simple answer when you’re young
Yet it all went south with Chris on West 4th,
stuttering on words said, choking on courage
and the empty soliloquy. .

Singing up Lexington, laughter loud in our lungs,
wild and bewildering, the way love should.
He had on ripped jeans and the fountains were pink,
moonlight dazzling, surrounding me, pale eyes
drenched in passion. Kisses hidden by the scaffolding,
59th Street and Madison, rusted love to stir the stale blood.

A deathless death in inches, physical symphony
and reawakening from the tomb of myself.
The bedroom is covered in rebirth, amniotic evidence,
Past Dyre Avenue where God waits in open arms,
and heaven can come twice, with patience.

Bonafide Blue Ribbon (aka Nice Guys Finish Last, and We Generally Warn You Before We Do) Part II

Feelings are cute but can turn monstrous, and should never be fed after midnight like Mogwais. None the less, or more the lesser, I waited for her in Connolly’s, wetting my desires with a whiskey neat and giving names to the little gremlins taking shape around my head and heart.

My mother always said an idle mind was Lucifer’s playground, and I never tempt the devil unless I’m ready to dance. Especially not after 12:00AM, the darkest hour, where you’re either climbing to the top of the world or on the verge of being crushed by it. Luckily my mind was made up and I had on my most comfortable shoes.

Enter Felice, stage left, who walked into the bar looking like the kind of girl they write songs about. Gorgeous enough to know it, so 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. 

“My shirt? You know I only shop at Hot Topic.”

“No, this confidence you definitely don’t deserve.”

The air smelled like starched shirts and too much perfume. My heart strung on the soft tendons of her knuckles that left me wondering where the arch of her neck leads. A feminine physique, the scent of raspberries; wide hips narrowing. What a waist for time.

Sex, such a a cheap trick and emotional shortcut; like skipping to the best part of your favorite song when you’re drunk. A quick high without the progress or buildup, that burns out as fast as it lights up and taste only as good as the oral is. But it’d been a while and I needed to feel a little needed, even if it were from somebody I didn’t give much of a damn about. But first there was the social foreplay, and some of the little monsters in me liked to chew the fat long enough to leave the bone dry. 

“The smartest diseases,” I said. “Are the kinds that can disguise themselves to look like it’s a part of you. Fool the body into thinking it’s just another blood cell. That’s the way it is with people, too: fake it til you take over their immune system.”

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

So beautifully cruel. She enriches me as a lover but ruins the romantic, makes lighter all those tragedies I rattle at with a beer can. Kissed by fire and freckled in 80’s rock ballads; she was terrible at the song of vice and liars. Honest to a fault with fireworks in her eyes- Felice, 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 milky bar of chocolate. Smokers lips and eyebrows that were always either feigning surprise or frowning.

“But I’m a Taurus.” I said. And she tried very admirably not to laugh.

We had met from a mutual acquaintance at a rooftop bar over near the west end last Summer. We remained light friends, occasional Facebook comment and a meme for posterity sake. An acquaintance that never quite made it as a friend, but if she had ever cut ties and left, I would be a husk. Because a cage without a bird is an empty thing.

“Tell me something.” I said.

“Like what?”

“Anything, as long as it’s not about your how much you hate your boss.”

Her eyes rolled, so drastically she nearly back-flipped, then fell restlessly on the crowd. Searching between the bodies, 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 heaven in her smile and a frown in her eyes, the kind of storm in her thighs that consumed you by degrees.

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

Company comes with conditioning, a terrible case of cotton mouth and Pavlov’s jaw, that creaks and rust and is afraid at any attempt at something honest. I couldn’t stand it, the pseudo sociable. Talking about your job and weather is conventional and safe, but feels more like a constraint than a conversational mattress. I could only get along with people that people call unhinged – the kind that are un-apologetically themselves and never learn to stop sniffing markers. Alcoholics, drug abusers, sex and love addicts anonymous. I fell into them the way people fall into bad habits and addictions.

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

“But I hate that idea. Of fucking…I don’t know, presupposing. Like meeting someone is so inevitable. If you 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?”

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.

“They write songs about people who fall in love the way you do.” I said coming from a haze, shooing the last few gremlins. “But that’s all they are. They’re just songs.”

My lies are noble. I didn’t think that was necessarily true, but perhaps what she needed to hear. Misleading a horse to water is a treason I’m likely to commit, even if those were never my intentions. Because then again, what consequences ever are?

She looked back to the crowd a little angrily, ran her knuckles on the counter in a way that made me hungry, and smiled like she had just said her own name. Her pupils stuttered and whatever emotion that almost revealed itself winced back to the chasm from where it came.

“You’re a good guy,” She said.

“I’m no hero.”

“No,” She replied with a smile. “Heroes don’t shop at Hot Topic.”

Bonafide Blue Ribbon (aka She’s Like Calling The Suicide Hotline And Getting Put On Hold) Part I

Twenty something and full of stupid, sliding into your DM’s without a shame in the world. “Wyd” texts after midnight are a 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded, and I’m watching from the bench thinking I might just steal home.

I’m the type of guy that needs to set 4 alarms to wake up on time, dressing myself up in moments that don’t mean a thing to me. But I’ve read enough Dostoevsky and Nietzche to make just about anybody think they do. Boredom is an understatement: what I suffer from is an emotional atrophy. When you can’t stand grand-standing any more and need to feel something, so the nearest dead end starts feeling like a welcome sign.

Some addictions aren’t so easy to kick – especially habits that text you back to say they miss you too.

“sure” the text read. “wats one drink”

“Ask Socrates.” I replied

“that was hemlock u fucking nerd 😓”

And I knew it would be a good night.

Curiosity Killed The Cat, But Satisfaction Brought Him Back (More Jaded)

“Do you know what poisons cows?” He asked.

A plastic bag was rustling between the long limbs of an old, wrinkled tree stump. Two paper coffee cups tumbled down the street, their plastic lids clinking against the worn and grey gravel of a bubble gum strewn sidewalk in New York. Urban tumbleweeds sifting between cars, bodies, half-opened trash bags and brown dry grass never to see Spring again.

“What?” I said, not really listening. I was too focused on the fauna fouling around us.

A valley of ash without the eyes or pity of TJ Eckleburg, the machinations of New York City they never write about in the movies. Grime, industry and man conglomerated into one. The wind had picked up, the bags rustled louder, cups clinked faster, and I thought there was a kind of music to the pollution of a city.

“The cow.” He repeated calmly. “You know what poisons them?”

I shook my head and he nodded wisely to himself,  shifting slightly against his cane which made his thousand year old Puerto-Rican bones groan. A while passed and he said nothing, stood leaning against the earth with the patience of trees.

“What poisons cows,” I asked absently, and his mustache twitched like cat whiskers, as if the question startled him awake. He smacked his lips, a bad habit he’d retained after years of chewing tobacco.

“The cow.” He repeated, again  calmly. “Do you know what poisons them?”

“No, Mingo. What poisons the cows?”

We were leaning on concrete slabs just steep enough to take a seat in, meandering the morning in fifty cent cigarettes and a small bottle of Jameson tucked safely in a brown paper bag. Me, looking too deeply into everyday scenery, and Mingo’s lively little eyes glinting grey, gazing out to Third Avenue the way a farmer does his crop.

He had the patience only age can teach- the still, sturdy, wise air of witnessing and being a part of decay. Wise and old, or old enough to seem wise; I couldn’t tell. An old man can say just about whatever he wants and get an absolute veneration from me. Remnants of my inner Catholic I’ve yet to snuff out: respecting elders and thinking too highly of them, feeling overwhelmed by guilt if I didn’t. Or possibly I trusted experience more than anything, because the hardness of life is also a teacher. And from what I’ve seen, we don’t learn as much from happiness as we do from the scars of healing.

“Esperanza, is a plant. They eat it, and then,” He ran his index finger along his neck, a universal sign, clicking his teeth. The little calf was done.

I felt a stubborn, humid heat smoldering my skin. It was close to 10AM but the day didn’t seem to want to start. Sunlight lingered on the horizon and yawned across the fruit cart vendors temples, slouched between the children across the avenue who’d stopped jumping and found more interest staring at their own feet. Lazy, dingy rays dragged between the plastic lids nestling in the gutter, crawled along the sidewalk and halfway up the 99 Cent and bodega storefronts. Then, just near the top, seemed to wince and suddenly retreat, giving up on ever moving on with the day. The morning was a low, dull Monday: fat, bloated, and sitting on itself, waiting.

But for what?

“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 he meant, what he was referring to: the toxins or definition. And as I wondered this, Mingo dug his shoes into the sidewalk and began to show his roots.

“I killed somebody once,” He said unexpectedly. “Coz’ of a woman.”

He was calm, not sad or entirely delighted. Not resentful, or proud, but with the air of a man that’s lived, and in living, was reflective of what he had done. I lack the grace to remain kind in cruel situations, but a hot heart for the coldest matters. Mingo had purposefully either confided in me as a friend, or turned the sanctuary of our corner into his personal confession booth. And in either scenario I couldn’t think of what to say, so chose to remain silent and sip the bottle of Jameson as if he’d just commented on the weather. I preferred to come off as indifferent than commit to either condoning or forgiving him, listened as a cars exhaust coughed awkwardly down the road.

“You got a girl?” He asked after a while.

Down the street, a gilded goddesses hips swayed toward us, and she reminded me of a girl I reminded myself to forget. Gray eyes with dark, somber lips; the kind of face easy to compliment and hard to miss-remember. 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. Her face, the angles, the sighs were all wrong. She didn’t have the unhappiness riddled along the creases of her cheeks, she didn’t hold me like a gasp for air while crying at the sight of her hand or freckled forearm.

She passed us swiftly, her heels clicking behind her like a round of applause, and swooped around the corner. Mingo slapped his lips again, and the girl I had almost remembered was gone.

“Yeah,” I said to Mingo, and I heard the sound of his neck creaking a nod.

Strange, the debris our hearts seem to build even after years of street cleaning. Odd, how songs still sound the same but lose meaning once outgrown. The plastic bag still rustled between the limbs of an old and wrinkled tree, and a car horn’s scream got louder, but sounded just a little farther off. The wind died down, the cups sat silently in the gutter, and I thought there was a kind of music to the pollution of a human being.

“Never killed anybody for her though,” I added, and Mingo laughed, ominously.

“You might,” He said.

I clipped my cigarette and said goodbye.