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.”

Advertisements

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.

Being Domesticated Is The Slowest Kind Of Suicide

Pathmark aisle misconduct, condescending at the magazines lining checkout. Pointing at other customers that look strange, or take twenty minutes to get their debit card out at the counter. It’s a woman with a purse the size of my impatience, she rummages through her bag and takes out an entire liter of seltzer water while I fight the urge to scream What-The-Literal-Fuck.

Behind her is an old couple standing desolate in marriage, still and confident in a silence only too much time together affords. One more person back is a boy with raven hair down to his flannel shirt he definitely got at Hot Topic – black nails, guy-liner, and a septum ring. The kind of kid you could tell does molly or LSD and definitely had a falling out with Fall Out Boy.

“You’re so judgmental, stop,” She says, and I make a face. “…maybe he likes Panic! At The Disco.”

I’ve been domesticated and it’s the slowest kind of suicide. My love used to be in a lonely street and empty parking lot, counting the grey tiles of the sidewalk and dingy lights of apartment windows. Empty sirens of the fire department whining down Broadway. I was mad and roaming, rabid and a little moody; roving Amsterdam for a fix, thigh, or feeling. Hardly a name, I dove into every speakeasy I could find in Manhattan. What I was looking for, I couldn’t say, but every night I thought I found it. In a strangers laugh when I said ‘you remind me of Tom Selleck,’ or the way a woman looked at me with disgust or elevator eyes. I tried to make love and friends quite endlessly, but then daylight would break and that victory, touch, or feeling would melt away from me like a dream.

“Gross, what was that?” She asks.

“What was what?” I said, hiding behind a grin.

“That thing your face did.”

My smile was a kind of sob nobody heard or could understand, a nightmare I share with May over dumplings and teriyaki sauce, or that bar with little pink umbrellas she likes to twirl and put in her hair. Johnny Utah’s, I think. Or was it Connolly’s?…Just some other pointless place to meet like a round table and discuss the immaterial but crucial happy accidents of our lives. I could give a list of what you should expect of her as a coworker, and if someone asks why I look so angry May could answer in numeric or alphabetical. It’s strange, how in the inconsequential we’ve found the pattern of each other. Not by some deep or alarming gesture, but with space, patience, an open heart.

“You mean smile?”

“Yeah, don’t do that again.”

“I’ll have you know my mom thinks I”m very handsome.”

I look back at my Bukowski, my era of erroneous, and I think I simply broke down in unrealistic expectations and the company for it. I mistakenly thought the onus of happiness was a burden, something to be waged and fought for. So I roamed for romance, thirsted for touch, lusted after the lack-luster and fleeting fulfillment of friends and flesh because I had a deep and awful yearning I’d yet to give to another person. And I was worried this rare and strange fruit I did not know how to grow might go unused and unfulfilled, left rotting in the dark cellars of my heart. Anxious and a little desperate- I gave it to any pretty face or fiend willing to take it. I was afraid, and over loneliness, I preferred to go bankrupt on a feeling.

“Never said it was ugly.” She replied.

“Then what is it?” I asked, and she thought for a moment.

“You’re always grumpy, like you’re constipated or that! Laughing, yes. You’re either mad or laughing. So when you smile its like this weird in between that’s not natural.”

But life is not a victory march, and much less a destination. Happiness is not a place or moment, but a pursuit. So when May tilts her face and I ask her what she’s thinking, with her smile wide as Sisyphus coming down to his boulder, I’m reminded that desire to throw myself against a wall is selfish and destructive. I remember that since September I’ve been living for more than myself.

“I know it sounds funny, but your laughter, it’s the most honest part about you. Like it comes from somewhere so deep inside of you that…I don’t know. I just like it better than whatever the hell that other thing was.”

“Some of the doctors said I was the best looking baby they ever delivered.” I replied, because the line is moving, and we are in Pathmark no matter if we are somewhere else.

“Can you back up a little? I don’t want anyone to know I’m with you.”

Never My Intention (But Then Again What Consequences Are?)

Window with a view to fill my lungs,
wet air, dry eyes, smoke and a
heart full of bourbon, sipping
out of a styrofoam cup the way you did.
Old Grandad on deck and jazz on vinyl,
humming bluegrass. Tapping foot. Cast-iron
skillet and some cheese I don’t know the name of.

Its a ritual, reserved for the unusual
moment I feel like missing you,
a maligna of the mind I treat
the way old doctors did insanity.
Summon a memory of the body,
the carnage of love, sapphire wounds;
gilded kisses lost so long ago that glass Summer.

But I don’t like the taste of whiskey any more,
my cigarettes don’t have menthol,
and lyrics sound like people I used to know
but have nothing in common with any more.
Friends lost for no particular reason
other than growing apart as people.

Strangers I shared death with.

You And Me And The Devil Makes Three

Her kiss is a relapse, misfortune,
worsening of my worst impulses;
an awful influence full of irresistible.
Her words are drugs and drugs are a clutch,
til highs do us part and lows make us
whole again. Bags of heavy yesterdays
weigh down, and I don’t know what to do with myself.

Taken hands, hushed words, rushed stalls-
what a waste to not grab waist and do
a four letter word (love). Plans to keep
and make her a home, 5PM lockdown, rush hour,
crowded public when doubts double and my mouth
taste like cinders. Slipping  into a thought of her
like a favorite pair of jeans. Snug, familiar,
warm; she fits well. Run my thumb along the holes
and coffee stains, wonder what memory or feeling
the moment will settle as, when the honeys and the moons
fade. If my name will be a sigh, wistful as a cloud,
or vague as rain humming to what the radio plays. 
A feeling haunting me in the distance, a reminder
that you are in tangles and I am tangelsome.

Still I pray for relapse and disaster,
addiction and her sex to once again step into me,
far from fog and drizzled Sundays, so I might tug
on her thoughts like a shoelace.  I am undone again.

Memory Fails, Experiences Remain

grass and elm stretched tall and wide,
a grey-calm sky recovering like
someone just finished crying.
could I remember these days?

billowing clouds and swelling sighs building
in hearts and lungs. lips breathe and release
heavy waste like an exhaust pipe. I wonder,
will I remember these days?

nature makes a man feel peace, serenity,
understanding insignificance, no matter
the road ahead or trials behind him.
should I remember these days?

no, but they are necessary.